SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) Florida State’s season started with national championship aspirations but will instead end in relative obscurity against Southern Mississippi in the Independence Bowl on Wednesday.
The Seminoles freely acknowledge it’s been a tough few months. They’re also adamant the disappointment won’t carry over to the field when they face the Golden Eagles.
”We are here to win,” Florida State defensive end Brian Burns said. ”We’ve got to dig down deep and get that win.”
Florida State (6-6, 3-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) will be playing without some of its top defensive players, including second-team AP All-American safety Derwin James, who declared for the NFL draft and opted not to play in the bowl game.
The Seminoles will try to slow a Southern Miss offense that’s led by running back Ito Smith. The 5-foot-9, 195-pound senior has run for nearly 4,500 yards in his career, including 1,323 this season.
”We’re not expecting one person to try and (stop Smith), we’re expecting everybody,” Florida State interim coach Odell Haggins said. ”We’re a team. We play team defense. We’re going to play together.”
Florida State has won four of its past five games since starting the season with a 2-5 record.
Southern Miss (8-4, 6-2 Conference USA) gets a prime opportunity to knock off a team from a power conference. The Golden Eagles regularly play teams from the Power Five conferences, losing to Kentucky (24-17) and Tennessee (24-10) earlier this year.
Southern Miss earned one of the biggest wins in program history in 1989 when a team led by quarterback Brett Favre beat No. 6 Florida State 30-26. The Golden Eagles hope for a similar result on Wednesday.
”It’s great to have an opportunity to show who we are,” Smith said.
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