The Golden Eagles showed after the first disappointing two weeks of the season they could handle adversity. After reeling off an impressive win streak and earning its first national ranking since 2004, Southern Miss showed it could handle success too, running away from UTEP in the second half.
Some observers viewed this as a trap game for the Golden Eagles. UTEP has been mediocre for most of the season, but the Miners have an offense that can score. Southern Miss had a long road trip, plus its win streak and a new national ranking.
"It was absolutely a trap game and we knew that," Southern Miss quarterback Austin Davis told local media. "That's the difference between this team and a couple of teams in the past. We won and we won 31-13 and we didn't play well."
Considering the offensive performance the Golden Eagles turned in against UTEP, there are probably a lot of teams in the country that would like to fit Davis' description of not playing well.
Southern Miss racked up 260 rushing yards and churned out 22 first downs. The Golden Eagles lead Conference USA in rushing average by nearly 35 yards per game.
"They keep doing it and the offensive line is doing what they do," coach Larry Fedora said. "I think we're blocking well on the perimeter so it was obvious tonight that we needed to run the ball effectively because we didn't throw the ball effectively. We had a lot of missed opportunities on the throwing game tonight."
- For the second straight week, freshman RB Jamal Woodyard had a big game. He ran for a career-high 134 yards. He also had a 68-yard touchdown run, the longest of his career. Southern Miss has had a 100-yard rusher in four straight weeks.
- Southern Miss senior QB Austin Davis threw his eighth interception of the season against UTEP. That ties his season-high, which he logged as a freshman. He wasn't sharp, but he still moved up all-time Conference USA touchdown lists.
- Southern Miss's win at UTEP moved the Golden Eagles up one spot, to 24, in the coaches poll. They still aren't ranked in the Associated Press poll, but should get in with a win this week.
Keep An Eye On: RB Jamal Woodyard - The freshman has allowed the Southern Miss running game to stay strong despite several key injuries. He has had consecutive weeks of at least 100 yards rushing. If the other backs get healthy this season, Southern Miss should have impressive depth at running back.
Looking Good: Southern Miss has had a 100-yard rusher in four straight weeks. In a conference known for its passing teams, the Golden Eagles are the best running team by a wide gap. Three times in the past four games, Southern Miss has rushed for at least 260 yards.
Still Needs Work: The Golden Eagles gave away 65 yards in penalties against UTEP, which is close to their average. Few teams in the nation average as many penalty yards per game as the Golden Eagles. That could hurt them in a big game later in the season.
Quote To Note: "The way we approached it was no different than any halftime from any game we have played this year. It was zero to zero and we had to go out and do what we needed to do. We made our adjustments and then it was, 'Go out and play hard and play Southern Miss football.'" - Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora, after his team outscored UTEP 21-3 in the second half.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
- WR Ryan Balentine had an unusual statistical day against UTEP. He had two catches, a receiving touchdown and no receiving yards.