The date was Sept. 20, 1986, and The University of Southern Mississippi
football team's back was against the wall, literally and figuratively,
with a little more than four minutes remaining in a game against
Mississippi State in Jackson.
to the Bulldogs, Southern Miss had just forced Mississippi State
to punt, but the kick couldn't have been much more perfect as the
ball landed on the Golden Eagles' 2 yard line.
Fans of the
Black and Gold, were at the very least, concerned.
But not so
the men in the trenches, including current Southern Miss running
backs coach Shelton Gandy, who was already having a career day to
that point, having scored three touchdowns. Now, his team needed
one more from him.
toting the pigskin, the Golden Eagles put together an impressive,
time-consuming16-play drive, 98-yard drive that concluded with Gandy
scoring his fourth touchdown of the day on a short-yardage run with
just a few seconds remaining in the contest. He finished the day
with 115 yards on 15 carries, including the four touchdowns.
It's a day
Gandy won't soon forget.
one of my fondest memories," Gandy, of Waynesboro, said while
sitting in his office in the new Southern Miss Athletic Complex.
"We knew we could move the football. I can remember (Southern
Miss quarterback) Andrew Anderson cracking a joke in the huddle
as we began the drive, to kind of loosen us up. He said, "Let's
go get it" and all I was focused on was moving the chains."
On the final
scoring play, Gandy said the coaches called for a sweep left, and,
following the lead block of fullback Randolph Brown, he made the
touchdown that culminated what many Golden Eagles fans referred
to as "The Drive."
four minutes was a lot of time, that we could drive the field and
get the score," Gandy said. "We just went out and did
what we had done all day, just moving the ball downfield. We had
them on their heels - we smelled blood."
Southern Miss was fortunate to have Gandy on its coaching staff.
"I would go to war with Shelton any day," he said. "He
gave 150 percent on the football field every time. When I saw Shelton
in the huddle I felt comfortable about our offense, because he was
also a good receiver, which made him a threat in our passing game.
And he wasn't the type of player you could just tackle. He was really
strong," Anderson said.
he's a heck of a coach. He knows what he's talking about and how
to get those guys ready because he's been there."
the game against MSU in such dramatic fashion, the other aspect
of the Golden Eagles' victory that impressed Gandy most was what
he described as a great job of teamwork. That, he said, is what
he's looking for from his running backs heading into the 2003 season.
who has significant game experience over the last two seasons, is
projected to start for the Golden Eagles, and Anthony Harris and
Timmy Blackwell also have playing time on their resume. "Blackwell's
very talented - he just needs to be consistent - and Harris is a
durable running back," Gandy said, and added that backs Wayne
Hardy, Larry Thomas and Cody Hull add depth to the team's running
guys have worked hard (in practice)," Gandy said. "I've
gotten a positive vibe from them this summer."
Miss returning to a traditional two-back set, and with the graduation
of standout running back Derrick Nix, Gandy said his players will
have to work together as a unit, and step up and give the same kind
of effort that made Nix, also an assistant coach for the Golden
Eagles, a legend on the Southern Miss gridiron.
To help achieve
their goals, including helping the team regain a conference championship
and a return to the Liberty Bowl, Gandy is looking to his guys to
embrace their motto: "Toughness, Togetherness and Unselfishness."
It's a philosophy
that worked on that memorable day in September 1986, and Gandy believes
it will serve his running backs well in the 2003 season.
have that attitude, we'll do fine," he said.