Southern Miss hasn't always been known as a team with a spread offense. To become one of the most consistently competitive football programs in the country, the Golden Eagles often have relied on a stout defense and strong running game.
This year's Southern Miss team might be a bit different. When the Golden Eagles beat Virginia last week on the road, they did it with quarterback Austin Davis spreading the ball around to several receivers. Nine different players had at least one catch for Southern Miss.
It gives the Golden Eagles an extra dimension.
"We feel like, that's kind of where we felt we were going," Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora said. "We have a couple guys that can make big plays for us at any time, but we can throw the ball around to a lot of different people. I don't think (opponents) can zero in on one guy. So, I feel like we can spread the ball around, and Austin has a good feel for everybody."
So far this season, Southern Miss' passing game has accounted for more yards than its rushing game. That could balance out as the season progresses. The running game started slow, but could come on through the remainder of the schedule.
"I still think we have an opportunity to be a good running football team," Fedora said. "It's still early in the season. It's something that we're going to continue to emphasize. It's a big part of our game plan."
- His performance wasn't exceptional in any one area, but Southern Miss punter Danny Hrapmann did a little of everything to earn the Conference USA Special Teams Player of the Week. He made 3-of-4 field goals, including two in the final quarter. As a punter, he converted a fake for a 31-yard gain, then later booted a 50-yard punt. He also averaged 68.7 yards on seven kickoffs.
- There will be a familiar voice in the booth broadcasting the Golden Eagles game this week against Rice. Former Southern Miss quarterback and NFL legend Brett Favre will make his debut as a color commentator in the game. Favre played at Southern Miss from 1987-90.
- Southern Miss had eight penalties against Virginia, which continued a negative trend for the team. The Golden Eagles are one of the most penalized teams in college football. Southern Miss is tied for eighth in penalties, averaging 8.25 per game. It hasn't cost the Golden Eagles any games yet, but it is something to watch.
Series History: Rice leads, 2-0. (Last meeting, 2008, 45-40 Rice)
Scouting The Offense: Southern Miss' offense could have a big day. Statistically, Rice's defense is one of the worst in the country, against the pass and run. The Golden Eagles should be able to move the ball by whatever means they want. Look for them to try to get the running game going.
Scouting The Defense: Southern Miss appears to have significant advantages when its defense is on the field too. The Golden Eagles, however, have given up an average of 38 points in two meeting against Rice. Southern Miss lost both games.
Quote To Note: "We've always said we're going to take what the defense gives us. Obviously, we were able to throw the ball, which puts a little more burden on his shoulders and, obviously, the receivers. And, Austin, if you're going to put it on someone's shoulders, might as well put it on his." - Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora on his team relying on the passing game against Virginia.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
This Week's Game: After two weeks away from Conference USA play, which started with a disappointing loss to Marshall, the Golden Eagles get back to league play against Rice. As good as Southern Miss has been, it has never beaten Rice. The teams have only played twice, all in the past four years.
Keys To The Game: This game is about execution and balance for Southern Miss. As long as the Golden Eagles are sharp on offense, don't turn the ball over and can churn out a respectable total in rushing yards, they should win this game. Rice is among the worst defensive teams in the nation.
Players To Watch:
QB Austin Davis - The senior had his best passing game of the season last week, throwing for 313 yards. He completed 27-of-41 passes and three touchdowns and no interceptions. It was already the second game this season in which Davis passed for at least 300 yards. He had two such games last year. It was also the 25th game of his Southern Miss career that he passed for more than 200 yards.
LB Korey Williams - He snatched another interception, something Williams has done in three straight games. He later suffered an apparent leg injury. Multiple media outlets have reported that Williams may be out for the season siting comments on his twitter account.
P Peter Boehme - He pinned Virginia inside its 20-yard line twice in three punts last week. That could really hinder a weaker Rice offense this week. He had a 60-yard punt and another that was downed at the Cavaliers' one-yard line. Boemhe averaged 51.3 yards per punt.
- LB Korey Williams left the game in the third quarter with a leg injury and did not return, Fedora refused to answer questions about Williams' status after practice on Tuesday.
- WR Desmond Johnson missed his third straight game with a knee injury. He hurt it in the season opener.
- DB Jerrion Johnson is expected back this week after missing three games with an undisclosed injury.