CoogFans' Southern Miss update

The game on Saturday will probably be less about X's and O's and more about emotion. Southern Miss is already bowl eligible and cannot advance to the conference championship game.

Southern Miss Golden Eagles
Conference USA

2010 Record: (7-3, 4-2)
2009 Record: (7-6, 5-3)
2009 Bowl: New Orleans Bowl vs. Middle Tennessee State (L 32-42)
Coach: Larry Fedora (21-15 at Southern Miss, 21-15 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Blake Anderson
Defensive Coordinator: Todd Bradford

Current Leaders
Rushing: Kendrick Hardy, RB, 559 yards
Passing: Austin Davis, QB, 2,234 yards
Receiving: Kelvin Bolden, WR, 570 yards
Tackles: Korey Williams, LB, 63
Sacks: Cordarro Law, DE, 4.0
Interceptions: Justin Wilson, S, 4

Other Key Players: WR DeAndre Brown, LB Jamie Collins, DT Anthony Gray, S Chico Hunter, WR Johdrick Morris, WR Quentin Pierce, S Kendrick Presley, LB Ronnie Thornton, CB Deron Wilson, C Cameron Zipp

Within just a few short hours, Southern Miss went from the joy of beating a ranked team on the road for the first time since they took out Alabama in 2000, to the horror of an unfortunate shooting that landed three Golden Eagles football players in the hospital with gun shot wounds. According to Hattiesburg police, linebackers Martez Smith and Tim Green and defensive end Deddrick Jones were shot around 1:30 a.m. early Sunday morning. Playing football may be the furthest thing from the minds of the 7-3 Southern Miss squad when they host Houston on Saturday. Yet, this team is playing good football right now and getting back on the field in front of what will be a very supportive home crowd could be exactly what the players need to, however briefly, take their minds off of their injured teammates.

Strengths:
Prior to facing UCF last week, Southern Miss had scored over 40 points in five consecutive games. Unfortunately the team lost two of those games. Austin Davis has developed into a solid signal caller who can have some huge games. On the year he is completing over 61 percent of his passes and has thrown for 2,234 yards. His 14 touchdown passes and just five interceptions have kept the Golden Eagles offense on the field. Much of Davis' solid passing numbers have come without superstar receiver DeAndre Brown. Brown missed six games during the 2010 campaign, but returned last week against UCF and caught three passes for 66 yards and a touchdown. While Brown was out, Kelvin Bolden, Johdrick Morris and Quentin Pierce did a fine job giving Davis plenty of quality targets. Now with Brown getting back into form, the receiving corps should be tough for most teams to stop. As good as the passing game is the bigger surprise is the ground game. After losing Damion Fletcher, many expected dual-threat Davis to lead this team in rushing this season. However, a handful of players, most notably Kendrick Hardy, have stepped up and turned into quality rushing threats. Hardy has averaged nearly 80 yards per game and the offensive line has done a great job paving the way for the rushing attack no matter who is in the backfield.

Weaknesses:
Despite scoring relatively consistently, this group has been anything but consistent. While the offense certainly deserves some of the blame, it was the defense that gave up 44 points to East Carolina and 50 points to UAB. Southern Miss lost both of those games at home by one point. The Golden Eagles are that close to being 9-1 and coasting into the Conference USA Championship game, but are instead just positioning for a better bowl. The defensive numbers are quite good. The rush defense ranks in the top ten in the nation and the pass defense is a solid fourth in the conference. The problem is giving up big plays and the wrong time. The absence of Jones, who started the first ten games of the season, will not help. While Jones has not tallied a sack the entire season, he did a good job stuffing the run and getting enough pressure in the backfield to open things up for the rest of the line. Without Jones, even more demands will be put on Cordarro Law, Terrance Pope, Khyri Thornton and Roshaad Byrd to get to the opposing quarterback. In the meantime, Korey Williams and Ronnie Thornton have to continue to develop into leaders in the middle of the defense and hold the entire unit together.

The Bottom Line:
The game on Saturday will probably be less about X's and O's and more about emotion. Southern Miss is already bowl eligible and cannot advance to the conference championship game. Certainly they have something to play for to move up the conference pecking order, but after what will undoubtedly be a very long week for the school and the football program, it remains to be seen if they come together to play a superb home finale or they are distracted by things much more important than football. On the other sideline, Houston is battling for bowl eligibility and getting their sixth win before heading to Texas Tech would put a lot of pressure off of that road trip.

2010 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 190.00 (29th in nation, 3rd in conference)
Passing Offense: 239.30 (46, 6)
Total Offense: 429.30 (26, 4)
Scoring Offense: 34.20 (24, 4)
Rushing Defense: 110.80 (9, 1)
Pass Defense: 211.30 (52, 4)
Total Defense: 322.10 (26, 2)
Scoring Defense: 25.60 (61, 3)
Turnover Margin: .80 (14, 2)
Sacks: 2.20 (44, 2)
Sacks Allowed: 1.20 (27, 5)

2010 Results:
September 2nd at South Carolina: 13-41
September 11th vs. Prairie View A&M: 34-7
September 17th vs. Kansas: 31-16
September 25th at Louisiana Tech: 13-12
October 2nd vs. Marshall: 41-16
October 9th vs. East Carolina: 43-44
October 16th at Memphis: 41-19
October 30th vs. UAB: 49-50
November 6th at Tulane: 46-30
November 13th at UCF: 31-21


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