31 December 1997
| WR Sherrod Gideon (Southern Miss)|
Southern Miss Golden Eagles football
Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Memphis, Tennessee, United States
Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium
1973 Liberty Bowl, 1995 Liberty Bowl
The 1997 Liberty Bowl featured the Southern Miss Golden Eagles and the Pittsburgh Panthers.
1997 Liberty Bowl Wikipedia
In their second year of Conference USA play, the Golden Eagles won their second straight Conference USA championship, the first time they repeated as conference champs since 1951 when still part of the Gulf States Conference. Even though they finished third in the Big East Conference, Pittsburgh had won half the amount of games they had won the past four seasons (12) in just one season, under new coach Walt Harris. This was the first Liberty Bowl for both teams.
By the time Pittsburgh had added a touchdown catch late in the 2nd quarter, it was 14–0 Southern Miss, on two Gideon touchdowns. As it turned out, that would be the Panthers' last points as the Golden Eagles dominated in the second half with 27 unanswered points. Perry Phenix started it off with a fumble recovery for a touchdown to make it 21–7, and Gideon caught his third touchdown to make it 28–7 as the third quarter ended. The fourth quarter proved to be the death blow for Pittsburgh as in a span of 2:40 Adalius Thomas and Terrance Parrish both returned interceptions for touchdowns as Southern Miss' offensive and defensive attack proved too much for the Panthers, whose three turnover doomed them despite having 440 total yards and having the ball for 32:55. Sherrod Gideon caught three touchdown passes from Lee Roberts (who went 18 of 26 for 227 yards) and was named MVP. This would remain the biggest margin of victory in Liberty Bowl history until 2013.
Southern Miss has returned twice to the Liberty Bowl (1999, 2003), while Pittsburgh has not.