Never in the rich history of the Southern Miss football program have the Golden Eagles racked up as many yards as they did against Conference USA foe Rice last week.
Southern Miss churned out 654 yards. The Golden Eagles' running game dominated, gashing the Owls for a season-high 370 yards. Their passing game was impressive too, netting 284 yards. Kevin Bolden and Ryan Balentine each logged more than 100 receiving yards.
But that brilliant production on offense obscured a few problems for Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles committed four turnovers, had trouble on special teams and played inconsistent early. It's hard not to wonder how good their offensive numbers could have been, and what might have happened if Southern Miss had that many turnovers against a better team.
Ultimately, though, the Golden Eagles were pleased.
"I just think it says a lot about our team," Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora said, when asked about overcoming the turnovers. "Defensively, I thought we played really well. Obviously, you don't want to turn the ball over like we did. So we have to do much better in those areas. But it's a win. We've got a lot to work on and we've got to get ready for Navy."
Defensively, the Golden Eagles were more stingy than they had been all season. Rice mustered only 229 total yards, including just 33 rushing yards. The Golden Eagles defense won 12 of 16 third downs.
They also accounted for a touchdown on a fumble return.
"Those guys have a lot of confidence," Fedora said of his defense. "You see how many hits they're getting on the quarterback with a four-and five-man rush. They're doing a heck of a job changing it up and creating problems for the quarterback and that's causing turnovers."
- Part of the reason Southern Miss's defense was so effective against Rice was that the Golden Eagles made several big plays in the Owls' backfield. Southern Miss logged nine tackles for loss (including two sacks), setting back Rice's offense a total of 41 yards. Rice only rushed for 33 yards.
- Southern Miss has performed well in Conference USA home openers. After beating Rice, the Golden Eagles moved to 13-3 in home openers.
- The Southern Miss offense put up impressive numbers against Rice. The balanced Golden Eagles did what they wanted, when they wanted. They rolled out 654 yards. It marked the first time since playing Houston last year that Southern Miss's offense had at least 200 yards rushing and 200 yards passing.
- Legendary QB and former Golden Eagle Brett Favre made his debut in the broadcast booth last week. But it's uncertain when he will be back.
"I'm not committing to a new career in broadcasting, but just wanted to support Southern Miss and check out the view from the press box," Favre said in a press release.
Keep An Eye On: QB Austin Davis - His play has been up and down this season. Davis had 284 passing yards and 39 rushing yards, but he also had two interceptions. Several Southern Miss running backs were banged up against Rice, so the Golden Eagles offense might lean on Davis more. He needs to be more consistent.
Looking Good: Six hundred fifty-four yards. Thirty-three first downs. Three-hundred seventy rushing yards. Southern Miss' offense was unstoppable (except for turnovers) against Rice. The running game was especially powerful. This is the type of performance fans expected, and if Southern Miss gets more of this, it should be a Conference USA contender.
Still Needs Work: K Danny Hrapmann was supposed to be an All-American candidate this season. But he has struggled, especially early in games.
In the first quarter against Rice, Hrapmann missed a 48-yard field goal and an extra point. Later in the game he missed a 54-yard field goal. The Southern Miss special teams also had a turnover.
Quote To Note: "It was a great win by the entire team in all three phases. All three phases created some adversity at times for us. But the guys never blinked. They just kept fighting and kept playing hard." - Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora on the Golden Eagles' 48-24 win over Rice.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
- RB Tracy Lampley has been one of the most dependable punt returners in Conference USA history. He returned two punts against Rice, putting him among the top-10 in league history in that category.
- DE Cordarro Law recorded his fourth sack of the year against Rice.
He has 22.5 in his career, ranking him among the top 15 in the history of Conference USA. He also forced the fumble that Marquese Wheaton returned 75 yards for a score.
- WR Kelvin Bolden had nine receptions for 132 yards and Ryan Balentine had seven for 114 yards. Last year, the last time Southern Miss had two receivers with at least 100 yards, Bolden had 132 yards in that game too.
- RB Jamal Woodyard went down with during the Rice game with what is thought to be a minor lower leg injury.
- RB Kendrick Hardy left the Rice game in the 4th quarter favoring his shoulder.