This week Drew White from over at GoldenEaglePride.com and myself exchanged questions regarding this week’s matchup between Marshall and Southern Miss.
Questions to Southern Miss:
1. Do you think there is any animosity in the USM locker room because of the scores of the last few games against Marshall?
I don't believe there is any extra animosity. For three seasons starting in 2012, USM was way down and just simply not very competitive. They took some hits from a lot of programs. The game against Marshall has its own enthusiasm because both programs typically are in the race for the top of Conference USA, and because they've both been around C-USA for a while.
2. What do you guys think of Coach Hopson so far, he used to coach at Marshall as you know?
People like the fact that Coach Hopson has experience at Southern Miss and certainly understands the culture and what it takes to win there. He's a Mississippi guy who has deep roots in the state and is well known and well liked. He's worked hard in recruiting and most believe he'll do very well on that front. Now, the bottom line comes in just simple wins and losses. He's said and done all the right things, and he's got a chance to win everyone over in this last stretch of games in which USM will be favored in likely all of them.
3. Where does the Marshall game rank on your fans list of games you look forward to each year. USM is very high on the list in regards to Marshall fans.
It is very high as well on the Southern Miss list. Our fans have a lot of respect for Marshall and pull for them when we aren't playing because it is good for the conference to see them win. Marshall always plays tough, physical football with an emphasis on defense. When both teams are solid, there has been some great games between the two and most years it is a very important game in the conference. It is always a game USM looks forward to and we respect Doc Holiday as one of the best coaches in the conference.
4. I noticed you are ranked pretty low in the country in turnover margin. Are those turnovers late in the game non impactful turnovers, or has turnovers been an issue at crucial times?
Turnovers have been a big problem for USM this year. They have kept teams close that probably shouldn't have been and have led to two losses, one big one against UTSA. Perhaps even more concerning though is the big plays given up on defense. In the past two games, UTSA and LSU have gobbled up yards in huge bunches and it has doomed the Golden Eagles. Turnovers have been a problem, but big plays on defense were the major thing discussed during the Bye week.
5. How do you see this weekend playing out on the field?
That's a great question. Southern Miss has not played well in the past two games, especially on defense. They had a much needed Bye week to get healthy and to really focus on what was going on. I hope that has helped to right the ship, we will see Saturday. Southern Miss still has a lot of talent and the offense is playing well. I think USM will be able to score points, it really comes down to if the adjustments on defense can have an effect. Marshall always plays Southern Miss tough and I see them coming to fight with a bit of desperation on their season and bowl game chances. I think USM wins, but I think it is going to be a 7-10 point game.
Questions from Golden Eagle Pride:
1. Marshall is a very uncharacteristic 2-5 this season. What has been some of the issues with the Herd in your opinion?
Something is “missing.” I know that sounds cliché, but something is just not clicking. At times, the team looks like a team that no one in the conference can touch, and then something happens, and it stops. Penalties are killing us. We are dead last in the country, over 90 yards per game. Five yards worse than the next team. Turnovers haven’t really cost us much until the Charlotte game, we fumbled going into the endzone on the opening drive of the second half which would have put us up 14. I like our chances at that time.
2. Marshall always had in the past had a strong defensive line and solid defense. What are the strengths of the defense this season?
Safeties would probably be the strength right now. The interior defensive line is getting pushed around a bit, as can be seen in our rush defensive stats. The defensive ends, Gary Thompson and Ryan Bee are playing very well. Bee actually broke on the scene early in the game last year against USM with a big blocked field goal. Since that point he has been an NFL caliber defensive end. Lost several potential starting defensive backs. Corey Tindal left early for the NFL. Antavis Rowe who was the starting nickel last year left the team this summer. Antonio “Speedy” Howard left campus at the end of fall semester last year. He is playing in JC now and actually has an offer from Southern Miss. All three should have been starting.
3. How has Chase Litton and the offense progressed this season?
Chase Litton is catching a lot of flack, but it is not really warranted. His numbers are very good. Several of his interceptions have been meaningless late game or hail mary type of passes. He has had a couple that hurt, most notably vs Akron and vs North Texas.
4. Are fans in Huntington still optimistic Marshall can turn this thing around this year?
Some are, many are not. It is hard to get a gauge. Is the internet a good gauge for the entire fan base? If so, then no, they are not optimistic. Personally I think this is a 2 – 5 group of very talented guys. Notice I didn’t say team. That is what seems to be missing. I fear that the fanbase revolts too much, and eventually become complacent and expect too much from the program. You guys know first hand what happens when you run off a very successful coach. I wont even go in to rehashing that part of your programs history.
5. What will Marshall have to do really well Saturday to come to Hattiesburg and beat Southern Miss?
Play like they are capable of playing, and stick together. This team is still very talented. This is the same group of players that was projected by many media outlets to win the East. The same group of players that some publications said would be a tough “trap” game for Louisville. This is the same group of players that has been favored in all but two games this year (Louisville and Pitt,) and not just favored, but double digit favorites. The USM game is the first game against a non P5 school that the Herd has not been heavy favorites.
Stay tuned to Herdhaven.com