It took a visit from a second-tier Division I football team, but Southern Miss got the bounce-back performance to reestablish positive momentum for the 2011 season.
As many anticipated, the Golden Eagles crushed Southeastern Louisiana, 52-6, an FCS team. It's probably the third consecutive week that Southern Miss was better than the opponent it faced. But it was the first time the Golden Eagles performed as expected.
Southern Miss, one of the most consistently competitive programs in the FBS division, was supposed to find its running game against Southeastern Louisiana. It did. The Golden Eagles amassed 335 yards and 19 first downs by running the football.
Coach Larry Fedora's team also converted half its third downs and won the turnover battle (plus two).
"We were much better in all three phases of the game," Fedora said. "It was much more of a complete game for us. The biggest challenge going into the game was to make sure we took care of the ball. After having six turnovers last week, that was something that was emphasized throughout the week."
The defense slowed down Southeastern Louisiana, which came into the game averaging more than 90 plays per game. The Lions ran only 74 plays at Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles defense intercepted three passes, and won 15 of 19 plays on third down.
Fedora hopes it was the type of win that can steer the Golden Eagles in the right direction for the rest of the season.
"I still think there was some really good execution on offense, some good execution on defense and some good things on special teams," he said. "Like I told them in there, 'It's a win. Enjoy it.'"
• Redshirt freshman RB Jamal Woodyard continues to impress for Southern Miss. He had 15 carries for 99 yards. He had a 25-yard touchdown run and a 23-yard reception for a score.
"There's a kid who's a redshirt freshman, really coming off a broken leg halfway through his senior year, so that's his first really meaningful game since that happened," coach Larry Fedora said. "I thought he responded really well."
- LB Korey Williams had an impressive all-around game on defense. He had 10 tackles, including one for loss. He also picked off a pass and rumbled 60 yards for a touchdown.
- Southern Miss's offensive line took a lot of criticism through the first couple weeks of the season. In last week's loss to Marshall, the line couldn't protect quarterback Austin Davis and struggled to consistently open holes for the talented Golden Eagles running backs.
Keep An Eye On: RB Jamal Woodyard - He showed his versatility, rushing for 99 yards and leading the team with 43 receiving yards. Woodyard also scored two touchdowns. His early performances could earn him more touches, and give Southern Miss some confidence in its running back depth.
Looking Good: The running game for Southern Miss came back strong. The Golden Eagles ran for 335 yards and were a yard away from have two 100-yard rushers in the game. Nineteen of Southern Miss's 29 first downs came via the running game.
Still Needs Work: The Golden Eagles had nine penalties for 82 yards in the game against Southeastern Louisiana. Southern Miss has had at least nine penalties in two of its first three games.
Quote To Note: "I'm still searching. I don't know. I don't really know what our identity is yet. We're probably still developing that as a football team because this was just our first complete game. We've got to put some more together before we start talking about who we really are." - Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora, when asked about his team's identity.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
- RB Kendrick Hardy ran for 155 yards, by far his best game of the season. He surpassed 1,000 for his career.
- K Danny Hrapmann missed two of three field goals in Southern Miss's win. He made one from 49 yards, but sandwiched that with misses from 44 and 46 yards.
- TE Collin Jarbo is a true freshman and notched his first reception, a 17-yard touchdown.
- WR Kelvin Bolden returned to the field after missing a week due to a concussion. He had four catches for 33 yards.
- RB Desmond Johnson missed another game due to a knee injury. He has only played once this season.