When you scan the numbers from last week's game, it doesn't seem like Southern Miss' offense played "poorly," as Golden Eagles coach Larry Fedora termed it.
Southern Miss racked up 425 total yards, almost evenly split between rushing and passing. The Golden Eagles seemed to move the ball at will.
But Southern Miss managed only 13 points, barely enough to hold off lowly Louisiana Tech (1-3).
That's because the Golden Eagles had their worst game of this season in regard to third-down conversions. Southern Miss had been one of the nation's best in that department and converted a pedestrian 40 percent against a below-average Louisiana Tech defense.
Southern Miss also was not efficient in the red zone, scoring on only 1 of 3 chances. The past two games, the Golden Eagles were 8 for 8. The last time they converted that poorly was the season opening loss to South Carolina.
Fedora isn't terribly concerned about the performance.
"It is not like every week for the last two years the offense has performed at a high level," Fedora said. "They just did not play well the other night, and I will expect them to bounce back and play at a very high level this week and do not see any reason why they won't. Whether we have lost someone or not, someone else has to step up and make plays."
The Golden Eagles should have a chance to rebound against Marshall, which has one of the 20 worst defenses in the nation in several key statistical categories.
Southern Miss just can't take their first Conference USA game of the season for granted.
Said Fedora: "They have been playing real hard, but just have not gotten over the hump. They were in the game with West Virginia all the way to the end and played Ohio real tight Saturday. Maybe that was the game that gets them where they need to be."
• Southern Miss junior WR Kelvin "Peanut" Bolden is coming off the best game of his career, and with the uncertain status of standout DeAndre Brown, he has a chance to step up and be a playmaker for the Golden Eagles.
Last week Bolden had two catches for 79 yards, including a key 56-yarder which helped Southern Miss seal the game. It impressed coach Larry Fedora, who said, "Peanut Bolden was the one guy who really made plays."
• The offensive line for Southern Miss is starting to get banged up. The Golden Eagles could be without two of their five starting linemen from this past week. RT Jason Weaver tore two knee ligaments, had surgery late last week and is out for the season. LG Joe Duhon also has a knee injury, though a less serious one, and he might miss the conference opener.
• Speaking of Conference USA openers, the Golden Eagles have enjoyed great success in those games. Southern Miss is 12-2 in league openers with Conference USA. The Golden Eagles had won nine in a row before losing to Marshall in 2008.
Series History: Southern Miss leads, 4-1 (Last meeting, 2009, 27-20 Southern Miss).
Scouting The Offense: Marshall has been porous on defense, though it has been solid in getting sacks. Southern Miss should be able to get back into form and needs to do better converting third downs and scoring in the red zone. The Golden Eagles should be able to continue its balance and may need to break in less experienced offensive linemen due to some recent injuries.
Scouting The Defense: Southern Mississippi's defensive linemen and secondary should get chances to make game-changing plays on Saturday because Marshall is a passing team. It could be a good warm-up for the upcoming battle with more potent East Carolina.
Quote To Note: "We talk about our goals, which are to win the (C-USA) East and play for a C-USA Championship, and that all starts this week. I do not know if there is a huge amount of emphasis, but we make the guys aware of it. We will practice the same, and nothing will change in the way we prepare, but they know this is for all the marbles now."-Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
This Week's GAME: Marshall at Southern Miss, Oct. 2-Sure, it's the Conference USA opener, but the big game is next week. That's when Southern Miss takes on East Carolina, which is already 2-0 in league play (the Pirates play a non-conference game this week. That game makes this week's game against Marshall important because if Southern Miss is upset, it will fall behind East Carolina without playing them.
Keys To The Game: Southern Miss has more talent than Marshall, but the Golden Eagles can't allow the Thundering Herd to think it can win. Marshall missed an upset shot of West Virginia, but it knows what it can do. Southern Miss can win without playing its best game, but the Golden Eagles need to be sharp on offense and continue its solid play on defense for positive momentum going into a big game against East Carolina on Oct. 9.
Players To Watch:
QB Austin Davis - If the Golden Eagles are to convert more third downs, making up for last week, then it starts with Davis. He should have chances to make plays with his arm and feet.
RB Desmond Johnson - He seems to have emerged as Southern Miss' top back. And if the Golden Eagles have replacements in on the offensive line, then Johnson will need to have a strong performance to help them out.
DE Cordarro Law - Marshall gets most of its yards in the passing game, so Law should have plenty of chances to chase sacks.
• OL Jason Weaver had knee surgery late last week and is out for the season. The left tackle will return next season.
• Southern Miss WR DeAndre Brown missed the Louisiana Tech injury with a lower leg strain. Fedora calls Brown day-to-day and says the injury isn't related to his broken leg of the past season.
• Joe Duhon, Southern Miss' starting left guard, is questionable for Saturday's game with a knee injury.