Game 5 - Southern Miss

Rice has had 10 days to heal and prepare for its first game out of the state of Texas this year. Southern Miss will start an inexperienced QB. Can the Owls pull off an upset and jumpstart their season...?

The real season starts tomorrow night in Hattiesburg for the Rice Owls. The one "gimme" for a new coaching staff's first game has been used against Nicholls State. The three losses against Big 12 teams Baylor, Texas Tech, and Texas? Those were expected too. And let's face it, even though all three have lost since Rice played them, they still have (some much more) stronger programs than where the Owls are right now. If the Owls are to salvage something of this season they must start tomorrow night against the Golden Eagles of Southern Miss.

A "W" is a "W" - Or is it?

The time is now for the 2007 Owls. It's time to put it all together for 60 minutes of mistake free football. The Owls have played poorly in bunches this year – but are they as bad as their record indicates? No way. Period. In fact, at times they've looked really solid, solid enough to beat people if that level of play were to be kept up over 4 quarters. If the Owls were to go in and pull off the upset (they are 20 point underdogs), tomorrow night's game could be the spark that ignites this team for a run down the C-USA stretch. The Owls need to do the following to win:

Create turnovers – last year we did it, this year we're not

Score Touchdowns in the Red Zone – a team struggling to find confidence has to capitalize on every scoring opportunity with touchdowns.

Protect the Ball – turnovers have plagued the Owls all year – Chase has 7 interceptions already this year, he had 5 ALL of last year. His receivers have contributed to half of these so blame must be distributed where due. The Owls are also fumbling at a rate that would surpass the total number of fumbles they had last year.

Stop the RunDamion Fletcher was held in check against Boise St. so he'll be looking for a bounce back game against the Owls. I also expect the Golden Eagles to keep the ball on the ground even more, considering they are down to 3rd String QB Martevious Young who will likely start. Young can run the ball too.

Make Plays – the Owls haven't had many game changing plays this year and they are due. They need dazzling runs, spectacular catches, interceptions, a blocked kick, quarterback sacks – anything that shifts momentum.

Southern Miss Scouting Report

The Golden Eagles run multiple offensive sets – including Split Backs and 3 Wides.

Receivers - They like to throw ball, especially to Chris Johnson and Shawn Nelson – who is a former WR, turned TE. Nelson has received mention as possibly the best TE in C-USA. Case in Point: He got behind the Boise St. defense a couple times for long catch and runs.

Running Backs - Damion Fletcher isn't the biggest guy around at 5-10 175 but the sophomore from Biloxi runs extremely hard. He was first team C-USA last year rushing for 1388 yards as a true freshman. Tory Harrison is an above average return man and leads the team in all purpose yards. Freshman V.J. Floyd has also gotten carries. Fletcher is the feature back.

Quarterback – Southern Miss lost Jeremy Young in the Boise State game, which was a major blow. He was the second leading rusher on the team. Things went from bad to worse when his backup, senior Stephen Reaves pulled an oblique muscle in practice this week. Enter Martevious Young; a red shirt freshman who sources close to the program believe has all the tools to be a great college quarterback. He reportedly has a big arm and can throw fifty yards without stepping into the ball. His deep balls are reportedly very accurate and short ones get there in a hurry. He is a couple of inches shorter then Jeremy Young. He can run from the quarterback position but might be a half step slower. Look for the offensive package to shrink because of his lack of experience and therefore not knowing all the right offensive packages and audibles.

Offensive Line- Southern Miss is solid on the corners with All C-USA LT Chris Clark and RT Ryan McKee. Neither has allowed a sack this season. The offense has rushed for 662 yards in 4 games.

The Southern Miss defense has produced several NFL players like Adalius Thomas and Patrick Surtain. They could have used them against Boise St. as the Broncos rolled up 506 yards against the Golden Eagles.

Defensive Line – DT Martavius Prince is the leader of this group. He was 2 nd Team C-USA last year with 12 tackles for a loss and 3 sacks. He has 2.5 Sacks and 3 TFL this year already. Robert Henderson is also very productive from his DE spot, also notching 2nd Team C-USA honors.

Linebackers – Gerald McRath leads the team in tackles with 53. Free Safety Eddie Hicks is second with 33 but has 2 interceptions to his credit also.

Defensive Backs – Brandon Sumrall is a physical CB at 5-11 200 pounds and intercepted a pass against Boise St. He had 80 tackles and 2 interceptions last year playing ROV. Eddie Hicks mentioned above, has a nose for the football.

Bottom Line

The Owls need to start overachieving; they simply cannot win games by playing average football. The margin for error last Saturday for ranked teams was very small with Oklahoma, Texas, Rutgers, and West Virginia (Friday) losing. The margin for error for Rice is no different. This will not be an easy game to win, Southern Miss is 23-3 at home in October. But the Owls have to start somewhere – is Hattiesburg that place?

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