Last week's upset loss to UAB stung Southern Miss, knocking them out of the national rankings.
But it didn't bump any significant and realistic goals off the
Golden Eagles' list, an important key for the team to remember coming into this week's game against lowly Memphis. A loss to the Tigers would have been a disaster.
To its credit, Southern Miss bounced back, and routed Memphis 44-7 with sharp play all over the field.
"We put it to bed the next night and started focusing on Memphis and getting that taste out of our mouths," Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora said. "The only way you're going to get that taste out of your mouth was to step back out on that field and play Southern Miss style football. We did that."
That blowout victory gave Southern Miss its third 10-win season in school history and a berth in the Conference USA championship game.
The Golden Eagles, which won the league's East Division, will play at No. 8 Houston for the title.
Fedora knows his team will have its hands full.
"Our guys are going to have to play flawless football," he said.
"We're going to have to take care of the football and play great on defense. They are the No. 1 offense in the country."
- This year's Golden Eagles made history. For the first time in 23 years, and only the third time in program history, Southern Miss won 10 games. The team had made attaining 10 wins a goal, and talked about it throughout the season. Before 1988, the last Southern Miss team to get 10 wins was the 1952 squad.
- Non-offensive touchdowns have been critical to Southern Miss' success this season. That trend continued against Memphis. Deron Wilson and Kendrick Presley each returned interceptions for touchdowns in the game. Presley's went a school-record 100 yards.
- Southern Miss has been tough to beat at home under coach Larry Fedora. This is the second time in his four years at the school that the Golden Eagles finished unbeaten at home. Southern Miss was 6-0 this season.
Series History: Southern Miss leads, 7-5 (Last meeting, 2010, 59-41 Southern Miss).
Scouting The Offense: The Golden Eagles have been on a roll. The past three weeks, Southern Miss has racked up at least 500 yards in its past three games. In the past two games, the Golden Eagles have been especially balanced, notching more than 200 yards rushing and passing each game. A strong running game could help Southern Miss keep Houston's prolific offense off the field.
Scouting The Defense: Southern Miss' defense put up astonishing numbers against Memphis. The Golden Eagles allowed Memphis to gain just seven rushing yards, the second-fewest in the Larry Fedora era. It was the sixth time this season that Southern Miss held an opponent below 100 rushing yards. Southern Miss should come into the game against Houston, and its No. 1 ranked offense, with confidence.
Quote To Note: "We're going to have to put their heads together. I know we're going to have to play great. They are a great football team. They are No. 8 in the country and didn't just get there. They are 12-0. We've got our work cut out for us." - Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora, when asked how to stop Houston, next week's opponent.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
This Week's Game: Southern Miss at Houston, C-USA championship game, Dec. 3. At stake in this game for Southern Miss is its first Conference USA title since 2003. It's also a chance for the Golden Eagles to be a spoiler. Houston is playing for a possible BCS berth, and a loss probably would spoil that hope.
Keys To The Game: Only once in Conference USA play did Houston score fewer than 48 points, and the Cougars won that game by 30. Southern Miss has a strong defense, the best Houston has played this year, but the Golden Eagles will need help. The special teams have to contribute, and the offense needs to be able to run to keep Houston's offense off the field.
Players To Watch:
QB Austin Davis - Was named the 2011 Conerly Trophy Award winner as Mississippi's top collegiate football player. He was also named one of three finalists for the Burlsworth Trophy, which is awarded annually to the best college player that was once a walk on.
DB Kendrick Presley - He set a school record when he returned an interception 100 yards for a touchdown against Memphis.
K Danny Hrappman - He has connected on 11 of his last 12 field goals over the last four games.