September 17, 2013

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The Good

Southern Miss finally found its run game Saturday afternoon and it couldn't have come at a better time. The Eagles are enjoying a bye week right now before going on the road to face a Boise State team that has struggled to stop the run. The Broncos have given up 608 yards on the ground through three games, including a 268-yard day in a blowout loss to Washington to open the season. Jalen Richard led USM last week with 94 yards on 14 attempts and if he can mimic that production next week, the offense should move the ball between the twenties and hopefully score touchdowns - something this unit has failed to do so far.

The defense has played well enough to win all three games and the Eagles have done a great job of limiting big pass plays. While they haven't faced a quarterback who can throw the ball extremely well, Southern Miss shut down Nebraska's Taylor Martinez through the air, only allowing 170 passing yards against the best QB on the schedule. Arkansas could get absolutely no semblance of a passing game going last week and the defense only gave up 215 total yards in its opening-day loss to Texas State. This is a squad that, despite a plethora of injuries, has done its job and carried the offense during hard times in the early portion of the season. They will only get better as the year goes on and the D that still has the potential to be a Top 50 unit in 2013.

The Bad

While the defensive side of the ball has been a relative bright spot, they are struggling to stop teams on third down. Opponents are converting on third down 44.19% of the time - nearly half of every time they line up to take a snap. That is an eye-opening number that has to be brought down if the defense wants to limit drives and get themselves off the field.

The Golden Eagles, on the other hand, are only converting on third down at a porous 27.8% rate -- a tremendously inept number that highlights just how bad the offense has performed. So many drives have been stopped due to the offense's inability to simply get a first down, and that has to improve right away for Southern Miss to have a chance next Saturday in Boise.

The Ugly

We've seen it all year and Saturday was no different. Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. This team has been absolutely killed by miscues all year, and Allan Bridgford continued that against Arkansas with two interceptions. If Southern Miss wants to have any chance at all of competing against the Broncos, they have to play a turnover-free game. Bridgford is second in the nation in interceptions and the Golden Eagles are last in the FBS in turnover margin - to say USM has had bad luck when it comes to holding on to the ball would be a huge understatement. That has to end, especially with a fresh C-USA schedule coming up.

Southern Miss simply can't score touchdowns. The Eagles have only two (TWO!) TDs in three games, and the offense has not been able to punch the ball in the end zone all year. Sure, USM has moved the ball relatively well in between the twenties but you simply can't win with field goals and turnovers plaguing your drives. The Eagles have converted only 57.14% of their red zone possessions into scores and only one of those was for a touchdown. That is an abysmal stat that has to be corrected for Southern Miss to finally showcase its potential offensive prowess under coach Todd Monken and his staff.

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