Southern Miss' Larry Fedora On Eagles, Herd

First-year Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora met with the media on Monday to talk about the win over Arkansas State, 27-24, and the upcoming game with the Marshall Thundering Herd. Marshall lost on its last trip to Hattiesburg, Miss., by 42-7 in 2006 and is 0-3 against the Golden Eagles since joining Conference USA in 2005.

On Marshall: "I know they have had some success running the football and that is what they are going to do it with. I know they have one receiver, No. 1 (Darius Passmore), that is a really good football player, I know they have tight end (Cody Slate) that is really good, but I don't think he has played the last couple of weeks. On defense, they are a heavy blitz team, they are bringing it from all over the place, and they have implemented a lot of blitzes. No. 96 (Albert McClellan) has come back (from injury a year ago) and he is playing really well. They are young in the secondary, but they are doing a lot of things with the blitzes, and changing up their fronts, going from three down lineman to four down lineman trying to confuse you. We will have our work cut out for us there, and at this time I haven't spent enough time watching the special teams so I couldn't tell you."

First-year Southern Miss Coach Larry Fedora will be home at M.M. Roberts Stadium this Saturday when the Golden Eagles host the Marshall Thundering Herd for USM's Conference USA opener. Both teams are 2-1 on the season, although the Herd is 1-0 in C-USA after beating Memphis last weekend. photo courtesy of Southern Miss Athletics

At this point in season: "As coaches, when we evaluate it, we look at it, we feel like we are getting better every week. It may not show on the field in a lot of areas, but we are getting better every week. The experience we are getting is really good. We had a game at home our first game of the season, we executed in a lot of areas and we won the game against team that went to Illinois and played the dog out of them. We went on the road to Auburn, a very good football team, maybe we were a little overwhelmed at first. defensively, we played really well, then we got going and realized that we could play, so we learned something there. We went on the road against a team (Arkansas State) that we felt like was a very good football team, and jumped out, maybe got in a little lull, but ended up hanging on and winning on the road. I think we are growing as a football team, we are getting better in a lot of areas. Hopefully, we come home this week and put the whole thing together and play that whole game."

USM Players of the Week: "Anthony Gray, defensive line (four tackles, two sacks for minus-12) and Gerald McRath (eight tackles) at linebacker. Then on the offensive side, it was Shawn Nelson (seven catches, 110 yards) and Austin Davis (18-of-31 for 219 yards and two touchdowns). Cameron O'Neal (three tackles) is our special teams (player)."

On Arkansas State: "First of all, we are continuing to grow as a football team, based on our game last week, in a lot of areas. We got better in some areas, we made a lot of mistakes in some areas, but we are continuing to grow each and every snap. It was a good win on the road against a team that we felt would be very tough on the road and it was. Our guys fought hard all the way to the end and that's why we won the football game. We made a lot of improvement in our special teams; we really challenged those guys the previous week from the past two weeks. And I think they responded. I think we definitely won the kicking game and we did some good things on defense, even though we did make some mistakes. We made the plays when we had to make them. Offensively, we looked good at times, and we sputtered at times, but then again when we had to make the play, we made the play. Again, we were happy to get out with a win on the road."

On Arkansas State playing defense differently in second half: "No, they didn't do anything differently. I didn't notice any adjustments. Even going back and looking at the film, I didn't see any adjustments that they made. It was probably a lack of focus on our part offensively. It was almost a little bit like the first half against Auburn, when we started making some mistakes. It was uncharacteristic because we hadn't been doing them in the first half. That was disappointing. As soon as we started doing that, they made a few plays on their offense and got the momentum going. And when the momentum rolled over, it was tough to get it back."

On putting together a full game: "That's a good question. I am doing everything possible (to make that happen). A lot of it has to do with a team that has a new system in every phase of the game -- offense, defense, and special teams. They continuously have to focus all the time. They never get to relax, because they are never going to be totally comfortable. I don't think this season they will ever be totally comfortable because it is the first year in the system. It is a never-ending growing process for them this season."

On the go-ahead field goal and then a 93-yard scoring drive after Arkansas State botched a snap on a field goal that led to Southern Miss getting points: "It's not like we got them on the sideline and said it's a do-or-die situation right now and you have to do it. We spend time in practice on it. We know the chances of going the distance when you are backed up aren't good, but we do practice it. I think they did a great job. We overcame some things in that series, just like we did in the first series of the game. We overcame a lot of bad plays and bad penalties, but they stayed focus and didn't let their frustration level get to them. I think they did a nice job there."

On the defense: "I was giving them everything I had and I wanted them to respond and to continue to play hard. And that is one thing we have preached, that we are going to continue to play hard all the way to the end. Even if we are not making some plays, and it is not going our way, we can still play hard. I believe that if you play hard that good things will happen to you eventually. We made the play. The kid made one bad throw - well, I don't even know if it was a bad throw - and we took advantage of the opportunity."

On C.J. Bailey's experience: "He looks like he is the most experienced guy that we have at corner. And a lot of that is because he has been in the fire. He has gotten burned last year and he knows what he is doing out there and what it feels like. To be honest, it wasn't one of his best games, the last two games he played really well, he made some plays in this game, but he made some mistakes that he shouldn't have made in this game. But there is no doubt him playing as a true freshman is what has made him what he is now."

On whether Damion Fletcher was on the ground when a fumble was called on the play: "In my opinion yes. If the rule is the ground can not cause a fumble, that's the way it looks like on film. But that's not the way they ruled it, but they did review it. It's just not the way they saw it."

On Austin Davis' pass completion percentage to this point: "Think of how many balls we have had dropped. We had five in the Auburn game, two this week and two or three in the Louisiana-Lafayette game. He can definitely be in the 70 percentile range. With this style of offense there is no reason why he can't be. We will get better and he will get better. He hasn't thrown that many bad balls if you look. It's been two or three a game that you would like to have back, but he is doing a nice job. Again, here's a guy that every snap he gets is a new experience for him, and he is going to continue to grow and get better."

On the rotation of the defensive lineman: "We were rolling them in consistently, trying to keep them fresh. Like I said, Anthony Gray probably played his best game; Eric Phillips probably didn't play his best for whatever reason. But that is something that we talked to the whole team about yesterday, as an individual, if you didn't play the type of game that you really wanted to play, why was it? Look in the mirror and figure it out. Was it the scheme, was it the game plan, was it your week of mental preparation, was it your physical preparation, did you not take care of your body, did you not rest, did you not eat right, did you not hydrate through the week...Whatever it was, figure out what it was and then change it so that it doesn't happen again. It may be your personal plan, the way you slept the night before, whatever it is that you have to change it so you can make it better the next week."

On Calvin Wilson, who missed last week's game because of injury: "From what I was told this morning, he will participate tomorrow at practice. He should be back 100 percent. That is what I was told."

On the game-clinching interception: "The guy got his hands on the ball, it may have been thrown just a hair behind him but it came off of him. And E.J. (Eddie Willingham) was right there covering him, and he made great reaction on to the ball to make the interception. That was the toughest pick we had. We had two opportunities earlier in the game, one with Eddie (Hicks) and one with Chico (Hunter) that both were dropped, and they scored 14 points on those two drives."

On Ryan Hebert who got hurt against Arkansas State: "He just tweaked his ankle. On both sides of the ball we are in pretty good shape, other than some bumps and bruises. From what I understand everyone will be back in practice tomorrow."

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