Southern Miss has yet to win this year. For most of the season, the Golden Eagles haven't even been close.
Last week Southern Miss played nationally-ranked Louisville painfully close before falling 21-17. The Golden Eagles surrendered the go-ahead touchdown with 5:35 to play, only after punter Peter Boehme slipped in the standing water on the field and his shanked kicked traveled six yards, fighting wind and rain the entire way. That gave Louisville the ball at the Southern Miss 22-yard line, and the Cardinals eventually scored.
But in that pain, many associated with the Southern Miss program found something positive.
"Certainly, I'm not disappointed with the effort and the fight we had and all the things we did to give us a chance to win the ball game," Southern Miss coach Ellis Johnson said. "I'm just really disappointed for our players. You can point to any one of four, five, six, seven little plays that didn't go our way and it would have made the difference in the ball game and it just didn't happen."
For the bulk of the night, Southern Miss looked like the better team, which put this game on the upset alert of many in college football.
But the evening's downpour might have contributed to the loss. Boehme slipped and fell before getting up and shanking his punt.
Said Johnson: "Handling the elements was one thing and I thought they did a reasonably decent job, too. In the end, maybe they handled it a little bit better than we did. I thought we were handling the elements a little bit better early, ball handling and putting up with the elements. That was obviously the biggest factor in this game."
WHAT'S AHEAD: Another week, another ranked team is headed to Hattiesburg, Miss. This time it's Boise State, the one-time college football darling that is now good enough to be ranked in a down year.
Unlike previous years, the Broncos are led by their defense. If Southern Miss plays well, Boise State is beatable. The Broncos almost surrendered a 25-point lead to lowly New Mexico last week.
- Ricky Lloyd made his first start for Southern Miss and gave coach Ellis Johnson some hope despite meager statistics. Sure the weather wasn't ideal, but Lloyd completed just two passes and ran for seven yards on 12 carries. He is the Golden Eagles' third starting quarterback of the season.
Said Johnson of Lloyd: "He struggled a lot early with a lot of different things, but let's face it, the conditions hampered everybody's throwing game. Missed some reads in the option, but I thought he really made some crucial plays, especially in the second half, and thought he did a good job even on our last drive with a chance to win it."
- Southern Miss hasn't been winless this long since 1976. That could lead to quick frustration, especially for those Golden Eagles that played last year because of the success they experienced. Johnson said it's crucial that the Golden Eagles don't let their minds beat them.
"Right now, this football team, we're looking at it on a daily basis, almost a minute to minute basis," Johnson said. "We have things that have got to be improved. The record is obviously important, but right now just the performance of the football team is what we've got to focus us."
Keep An Eye On: RB Desmond Johnson, one of the seniors on Southern Miss' roster, turned in one of the best performances of his career against Louisville, a ranked team coming into Hattiesburg. He had 99 yards on 14 carries. Though the numbers were relatively modest, it may be the breakout performance Southern Miss' running game needed to get a kick start.
Looking Good: Coming in to this week's game, Southern Miss' running game had been mediocre at best. Louisville, meanwhile, ranked 16th nationally against the run (allowing 91.5 yards per game), so it was a surprise that the Golden Eagles ran the ball well against the Cardinals. Southern Miss churned out 224 yards and averaged 4.7 yards per carry.
Still Needs Work: Third down has been mostly ugly for Southern Miss this season. The Golden Eagles are among the nation's worst defensively on third down, allowing opponents to convert about 57 percent of the time-they did no better against Louisville. This week, Southern Miss was also bad on offense, converting only 2 of 12 chances on third down.
Quote To Note: "I thought we controlled the line of scrimmage for the first 30 minutes and that Louisville got it back for a portion of the third quarter. The fourth quarter, I thought was back and forth." - Southern Miss coach Ellis Johnson.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
- RB Desmond Johnson had 99 yards on 14 carries, a season high and the best rushing day Johnson has had since last year against Memphis. He had 103 yards that day.
- DL Rakeem Nunez-Roches blocked an extra point against Louisville, marking the first time Southern Miss had blocked an extra point in more than a decade. The last time? It was 2001 against Alabama.
- WR Tracey Lampley keeps climbing up the Southern Miss career all-purpose yardage chart. He recorded only 50 total yards against Louisville, but that was enough to move into third place. The senior now has 4,087 in his career.
- RB Kendrick Hardy is coming back slowly from his hamstring injury. He had four carries against Louisville, matching the total he had this season coming into the game.
- Southern Miss reported no other injuries from the game.