Southern Miss has become an expert at subjecting itself to painful losses.
There was the national television no-show to open the season against South Carolina. Since then, the Golden Eagles have only lost two games, but they both were league games at home, by a combined two points.
Falling to Alabama-Birmingham last week might have cost them a shot at the Conference USA title, certainly a frustrating prospect. Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora doesn't mind.
"I want them to be frustrated right now," Fedora said. "I hope they are frustrated and it is tearing them up inside. If not, then I have the wrong guys. If it does not mean enough to them that it is just sickening. Then, we have the wrong guys right now. I want them to have a terrible taste in their mouth, and I want them to practice at a tempo so that we can play the way we need to play Saturday to win a football game."
That game Fedora and Southern Miss hope to win is against Tulane.
"It's all about pride," Golden Eagles wideout Quintin Pierce said. "You play football for pride, play for yourself and your teammates. To me, this season is not over."
Certainly not. A win Saturday means Southern Miss will be eligible for its eighth straight bowl game, placing them on par with such storied programs as Florida, Ohio State, Southern Cal, Texas, Oklahoma and Boise State.
• The Golden Eagles have been one of the most consistent programs when it comes to winning. In the past 64 seasons Southern Miss has won at least six games 53 times.
• Kendrick Hardy has taken over as the Golden Eagles' top runner. Hardy is the team's leading rusher despite being fourth in carries. Hardy is nicknamed Mule, for his direct, powerful and fast running style.
Said coach Larry Fedora: "He is really in a starting role right now, whether he is the first back on the field or not. He played a lot of plays the other day. He is on the kickoff team and his role has increased week-by-week."
• The Golden Eagles already had homecoming this year, but the team's trip to Tulane will serve as another homecoming of sorts. Nine Southern Miss players are from the New Orleans metro area and should have friends and family in the Superdome crowd. The most notable are kicker Daniel Hrapmann, linebacker Korey Williams and lineman Cameron Zipp.
• Southern Miss kicker Daniel Hrapmann's career long field goal of 54 yards last week was the third longest in school history. It was the second he has made from at least 50 yards this season. Hrapmann already set one school record this year, with five field goals against East Carolina.
Series History: Southern Miss leads, 22-7 (last meeting, 2009, 43-6, Southern Miss).
Scouting The Offense: Southern Miss' offensive line and running backs should be ready for a lot of work. Tulane has one of the worst rushing defenses in Conference USA. It has allowed more than 300 yards rushing twice this season. As long as the Golden Eagles don't fumble, or make bad plays when they do pass, they should move the ball well.
Scouting The Defense: There have been moments in which Tulane has showed some explosiveness in the passing game this season. It hasn't been consistent, but the threat looms. Southern Miss can't allow this. Tulane also allows nearly three sacks per game, so the Golden Eagles should have chances there.
Quote To Note: "We didn't play with any emotion, any enthusiasm or tempo. We're not good enough to play like that. We have to be on the edge all the time and playing at the edge of our emotion and playing with the utmost of enthusiasm to be good enough to play. They certainly did what we expected them to do. We just didn't do what I expected us to do."-Southern Miss defensive coordinator Todd Bradford.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
This Week's GAME: Southern Miss at Tulane, Nov. 6-More than anything this game serves as a test of Southern Miss' mental toughness. Falling last week to an Alabama-Birmingham team the Golden Eagles believe they should have defeated was quite a shock, and probably cost them any shot at a league title. Two of Tulane's wins are against teams with winning records.
Keys To The Game: For Southern Miss, everything boils down to physical, old-school football. The Golden Eagles shouldn't have trouble running the ball, as long as they bring the attitude and focus that eluded them last week. On defense, Southern Miss shouldn't have problems as long as it makes more big plays than Tulane.
Players To Watch:
RB Kendrick Hardy - Southern Miss' rushing offense ranks 29th nationally. Tulane's rushing defense ranks 93rd. Hardy should get plenty of carries, and ample openings on the field. He has to continue to finish runs strong and not fumble.
QB Austin Davis - Davis is coming off his first game this season with multiple interceptions. That was only the second time in his career he threw more than one in a game. There shouldn't be a ton of pressure on Davis to make passing plays this week, as Southern Miss should have an advantage and success running the ball. Still, Davis can't afford more interceptions.
DB Justin Wilson - Tulane's offensive strength is in the passing game, so Southern Miss defensive backs, such as Wilson, will need to be sharp but also ready to make plays. Wilson leads the team in interceptions and has a good chance to have opportunities for more. He hasn't had an interception since the East Carolina game.
• Southern Miss head coach Larry Fedora said the two prominent players banged up on Saturday-running backs Tracy Lampley and Kendrick Hardy-should be ready to go for this week's game.