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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, Nov. 10, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Gerald J. Ford Stadium (32,000) -- Dallas, Texas. Television: Fox Sports. Home Record: USM 0-5, SMU 3-2. Away Record: USM 0-4, SMU 1-3. Neutral Record: USM 0-0, SMU 0-0. Conference Record: USM 0-5, SMU 3-2. Series Record: Southern Miss leads, 3-0.
GAME NOTES: The Southern Miss Golden Eagles continue to search for their first win of the season when they head to Gerald J. Ford Stadium for a Conference USA bout with the SMU Mustangs.
The Golden Eagles dropped to 0-9 overall and 0-5 in league play last week as they let a 16-0 halftime lead slip away and were defeated, 27-19, by UAB in Hattiesburg. Southern Miss was expected to have a rebuilding year after winning the C-USA last season. Its best performance came against the league leading UCF Knights, which USM managed to take into double overtime before coming up short. Southern Miss is going to finish under .500 for the first time in its C-USA history, which dates back to 1996.
SMU is trying to become bowl eligible for a program record fourth season in a row. The Mustangs need to win two of their last three games for that to happen. Coach June Jones and his team departed Orlando with a disappointing 42-17 loss to UCF last week. The Knights ended SMU's two-game winning streak and completely halted the red hot offensive attack.
Southern Miss has history on its side heading into this one. The Golden Eagles hold a 3-0 edge in their all-time series with SMU. The Mustangs managed just a field goal in their 27-3 loss to Southern Miss last season.
The cause of the Golden Eagles' lack of success so far is very clear. Southern Miss is just 10th in scoring offense (19.2 ppg) and total offense (319.6 ypg) after finishing second in the conference in both categories last season. Southern Miss has been especially weak through the air, averaging only 147.2 yards per game, which is the worst in the C-USA.
The quarterback situation has been a shifting one for Southern Miss this season with the lack of production through the air. USM is the only team in the FBS to start four different QBs this season. Anthony Alford was under center last week and went 10-of-26 for 112 yards with an interception. The dual threat freshman also gained 45 yards on the ground and produced his sixth rushing touchdown of the season. Alford leads the team with 550 passing yards and six rushing TDs.
With inconsistency at quarterback, Southern Miss' receivers have been unable to create any chemistry. Tracey Lampley (17 receptions, 261 yards) is the team's most productive wideout, despite his modest numbers.
Desmond Johnson has been the team's featured back, rushing for 460 yards on 82 carries to lead the conference's fourth best rushing offense. Johnson did not play last week which gave Jalen Richard a chance to carry the ball nine times for 82 yards and a score.
The Golden Eagles are not much better on the other side of the ball with allowed averages of 38.2 points and 431.9 yards per contest, which rank sixth and 10th in the C-USA, respectively. USM has recorded three takeaways (five fumble recovers, one interception) over its past two games.
Jamie Collins has been one of the lone bright spots on the team as he has amassed 73 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and nine sacks. Collins is tied for first in the conference in sacks and tackles for loss.
Despite having all-conference running back Zach Line healthy this season, SMU has passed for more than twice as many yards (2,271) as it has run for (1,066). Line has accounted for nearly all of that production on the ground with 940 yards and six touchdowns on 194 carries. No other running back has more than 10 attempts. Line is second in the conference in yards per game (104.4) and trails only Eric Dickerson in the school's record books with 3,847 career rushing yards.
The Mustangs' passing game is operated by the gun-slinging Garrett Gilbert, who has thrown for 2,011 yards this season. The former Texas starting QB needs to quickly hone his suspect decision-making which has led to 12 touchdowns against 13 interceptions. Gilbert was shut down by UCF last week and finished 16-of-29 for a season-low 133 yards. He did manage to rush for two TDs for the second straight week in the losing effort.
Gilbert has been able to keep a few of his teammates involved, with four different receivers plus Line having at least 20 receptions and 250 yards. Jeremy Johnson leads all receivers in receptions (55), yards (564) and his tied for touchdown receptions (three). Darius Johnson is the second option with 48 receptions for 532 yards and three scores. De'Rikk Thompson also has three touchdown grabs and 319 yards on only 23 catches.
Like this week's foe, SMU has also been victim to large offensive numbers by the opposition, as teams are racking up 401.2 yards and 28.3 points per game. What SMU has been able to do very effectively to keep opponents at bay is force other teams into miscues. After recovering one UCF fumble last week, SMU has forced 28 turnovers this season, which is tops not only in the conference but tied for first in the nation. Nine of those turnovers have been cashed in for defensive TDs, which also is the most in the FBS.
Randall Joyner and Kenneth Acker have each nabbed three interceptions this season, while Joyner also has a team-best total of 60 total tackles. Taylor Reed (eight tackles for loss, four sacks) and Margus Hunt (six tackles for loss, five sacks) have been effective up front as well.
Although Southern Miss is certainly hungry for a win, there is too much instability on the offensive side of the ball right now. SMU will pound away with Line and take one step closer to a possible postseason birth.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: SMU 42, Southern Miss 24
11/07 11:17:48 ET
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