Southern Miss looks for second conference win

Caption: Coach Todd Monken prepares for the game against The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa Sept. 13.

The Golden Eagles captured their first road win of the season last weekend at North Texas and head coach Todd Monken said his team enjoyed a solid day of preparation for Louisiana Tech on Tuesday.

Southern Miss is coming off a 30-20 victory against conference foe North Texas and hoping the momentum carries over to Saturday when they face the Bulldogs at home. This match-up, set to kick off at 2:30 p.m., is the annual Blackout Game. Southern Miss is now 3-4 and third in the western division of Conference USA.

Last week, USM was able to get Jalen Richard in the back field in his first game since he was knocked out of week one’s contest against Mississippi State.

“He gets it,” Monken said. “He was our leading receiver against North Texas. He can route run, he can catch and he can protect.” 

Southern Miss might lean on Richard this week in order to keep a La. Tech offense that averages 33 points a game off the field. Against North Texas, Southern Miss was able to control the tempo of the game by possessing the ball for 37 minutes and
11 seconds.

La. Tech’s defense is coming into this week’s match up with some momentum of their own, as their linebacker, Terrell Pinson, was named the Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week. He registered seven total tackles with a solo stop for a loss of two yards, two interceptions, a fumble recovery returned for a touchdown, two pass break-ups and a quarterback hurry last week. Defensively, La. Tech gets off the field on third down, with opponents converting only 35 percent of their third
down attempts.

With USM’s offense in for a difficult challenge, the defense will need to play big and keep La. Tech out of the end zone.  La. Tech is averaging 30 passing attempts a game and quarterback Cody Sokol has a tendency to have a couple of errant throws, throwing eight interceptions so far this season. USM’s defense will have opportunities to return to their early season form, when they
averaged two
a game.

One of the big reasons for La. Tech’s quick start is because of the play of outstanding running back Kenneth Dixon, who the Golden Eagles will have to try and stop this weekend. Dixon has 724 all-purpose yards and 11 total touchdowns on the season. He possesses some big play ability, running for a 99-yard touchdown against Louisiana-Lafayette.

“It’s going to be a real challenge for us,” Monken said. “We’ve continued to play better and better as well. Not always perfect at times, but we’ve continued to get better.”

In order for USM to get to the .500 mark, they will need to control the game clock and not put themselves in third and long situations.  Defensively, the Golden Eagles will need to capitalize on turnover opportunities if given.