A 3-6 record isn't what the Southern Miss brass had in mind when it hired Larry Fedora to replace legendary coach, Jeff Bower. While the team has stalled in his first season as head coach, Fedora is starting to see results and the Golden Eagles are heading in the right direction offensively.
Fedora came to Southern Miss from Oklahoma St. after spending three seasons as the team's offensive coordinator in which he had fantastic results. The Golden Eagles got off to a hot start by winning two of their first three games, but lost their following five games in tough, close fashion, as four of those defeats were by seven points or less.
UCF head coach George O'Leary chuckled at Southern Miss' inability to finish games this year, asking members of the press on Tuesday if it sounded familiar to the Knights' woes. After Southern Miss put up 70 points last week against conference foe UAB, it is clear though that the Golden Eagles have the weapons to be explosive and should not be taken lightly by anyone.
"They have a lot of the pieces in play," O'Leary said. "I think the light came on against UAB. Anytime you can put 70 on somebody and are still throwing in the fourth quarter, then I think a lot of things were clicking."
Bruce Miller, a star defensive end for UCF, also knows that the defense will have its hands full on Saturday.
"They have a high powered offense and they put up a lot of points," said Miller. "They have some great athletes and great talent on that offense, so we're just trying to prepare for that."
The Golden Eagles are loaded all across the board on offense, with the running back position coming to mind. Damion Fletcher is a 5'10", 175 lb. back with excellent quickness and burst who also has surprising quickness. On the season, Fletcher has accumulated 1,055 yards, seven touchdowns and a 6.5 yard per carry average.
Fletcher is just the tip of the iceberg for Southern Miss' offense, as there are other playmakers all over the field, especially at the receiver and tight end positions.
"When you watch them on tape they have a couple of good receivers out there," said O'Leary. "The tight end (Shawn) Nelson, and the young kid they just brought in, DeAndre Brown, who I think is eventually going to be a big time player in the conference."
Brown was the crown jewel for Southern Miss' top ranked recruiting class last season, as the five-star receiver opted to stay near home for college. As a true freshman, the 6'6" Brown has proved to be a near unstoppable target, accumulating 844 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns thus far.
Nelson, now a senior, has been productive since his freshman year, topping 450 yards every year and 2008 looks to be no different. Nelson currently has 441 yards on the year and is projected to set a career high in receiving yards. At 6'5", 240 lbs, he is a difficult matchup for most linebackers or safeties because of his size and deceptive speed.
The Eagles start an unheralded freshman at quarterback in Austin Davis, and he has been very consistent throwing 16 touchdowns to just seven picks.
With such a well balanced offense, Miller and the Knights know they will have their hands full this weekend, but he says the formula to slowing the Golden Eagles down is easy.
"One thing I know we need to get done is have great line play. Last year they actually took it to us up front and with their running back and talent that they have, we can't let that happen. Our linebackers and secondary have to come to play and we have to do the same. We have to battle up front and put some pressure on these guys."
With a team that is apparently just hitting its offensive stride, the UCF defense will have to play at a very high level once again if they're going to have a shot at notching a victory on homecoming.
Southern Miss Getting Very Offensive
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