Cougar 'D' must make a stand
By Tom Carpenter
Daily Cougar Staff
Hattiesburg, Miss. is an unlikely place for the Cougars to go searching
for their first victory of the season, but the Golden Eagle aerie doesn't
sit quite so lofty
Southern Miss dominated Conference USA since the conference was formed
in 1996, amassing a 22-2 won-lost record in conference play through '99.
The Golden Eagles have enjoyed seven consecutive winning seasons and
played in four consecutive bowl games, including two Liberty Bowl appearances
and '99 when the Golden Eagles were C-USA champions.
However, the Golden Eagles failed to soar to the top of the conference
standings in 2000, falling to 5-3. Injuries played a large part in the
Southern Miss stands at 3-2 this season, 1-2 in C-USA play. The Golden
Eagles find themselves in the unusual position of chasing Louisville, Cincinnati
Carolina, all undefeated in C-USA this season.
Southern Miss head coach Jeff Bower, in his 11th season as head coach
and 24th season with the Southern Miss program, has a 70-49-1 record as
Eagles' head coach.
Redshirt senior quarterback Jeff Kelly ramrods the Southern Miss offense.
Kelly's primary receiver is junior Leroy Handy ... and that about says
concerning the Golden Eagle offense.
"They are struggling with the offensive system that they have and they
are trying to get better at it all the time," UH head coach Dana Dimel
Kelly ranks third on every career list of passing statistics at Southern
Miss except total offense, and he should climb into third place in that
the season ends.
Southern Miss ranks dead last in the conference in points scored, running
up a mere 17.2 points scored per game.
The Golden Eagle offense sputters and coughs up the ball as often as
it scores touchdowns.
The team suffered nine turnovers in its last two games, road losses
to Memphis and Louisville, including five turnovers against Louisville
"They are going to try to establish their run game against us and we
have to stop it," Dimel said.
The Southern Miss defense scores almost as many points a game as the
offense. The Golden Eagles' defense amasses an average of 13 points per
in the conference and No. 6 in the nation.
The Golden Eagles' defense ranks No. 2 in the nation in total defense,
giving up a stingy 52 yards per game. The defense ranks No. 2 against the
rush and No.
18 against the pass, surrendering a mere 90 aerial yards per game.
The Southern Miss defense has totaled an amazing 44 tackles for losses
and incredible 20 sacks in five games. Toss in five interceptions, four
fumbles, four blocked punts and 29 pass breakups and it's easy to understand
why the Southern Miss defense makes the Golden Eagles soar.
For the Cougars to wrest a victory from the Lady of the South, Southern
Miss, quarterback Nick Eddy must keep his offense on the field and continue
up the points when the team gets in the red zone.
Substituting for the injured Kelly Robertson, Eddy has been like a Formula
I driver who finally got his hands on the steering wheel of his souped-up
Eddy revved the engine against Memphis and Cincinnati and compiled an
efficiency rating of 146.86 after two games and has connected on .662 of
for four touchdowns.
Against the Golden Eagles, Steady Eddy will have to put the pedal to
the metal for the Cougars to have a chance of logging their first win of
Junior Joffrey Reynolds will have to run with wild abandon if he is
to stretch his string of consecutive 100-yard rushing games to four against
the No. 2-ranked
defense in the nation.
"We need to finish a game defensively; we had an 11-point lead and we
need to hold on to that lead," Dimel said. "We have to be prepared to battle
in the fourth
quarter on defense."