It takes an entire team to win a football game, but Southern Miss' retooled defense carried the Golden Eagles last week. For their first road game of 2011, and the Conference USA opener, Southern Miss is going to need more balance.
Southern Miss allowed just 244 total yards to Louisiana Tech and won on 12-of-16 third-down plays when the Bulldogs had the ball. Southern Miss held Louisiana Tech scoreless in the first half. The defense overcame a sluggish offense and several mistakes and bad plays on special teams.
"One thing that people don't realize is that the referees were changing the balls out on every snap which really slowed the tempo of the game down," Fedora said. "I mean, really slowed it down. … Defensively, I thought the game plan fit really well with what they did, and our guys had a really good feel for it. I don't think anything really surprised me."
Going against a Marshall program with a second-year head coach and a freshman quarterback, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Golden Eagles' defense turn in another impressive performance.
But the offense and special teams need to improve. A sluggish offense and several miscues on special teams could have cost Southern Miss the game, even with the defense playing as it did.
Fedora gave the offensive line a D for its performance. That has to improve. So does the play of senior quarterback Austin Davis. He didn't play poorly, but he didn't provide the spark Southern Miss needed.
Part of the problem was Tropical Storm Lee, which poured rain and whipped the players with wind.
"Overall, we missed a couple of deep throws that I would've liked him to hit, but under those circumstances, I thought he did a really nice job," Fedora said.
• Southern Miss DE Cordarro Law was named the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Week after his performance against Louisiana Tech in the season opener. Law registered eight tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. He moved into the top five on Southern Miss' all-time sacks list.
• It's going to be awhile before Brett Favre's NFL records fall, but Southern Miss QB Austin Davis needs 74 yards against Marshall to become the Golden Eagles' all-time passing leader, vaulting Favre.
• New starting C Austin Quattrochi impressed Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora in his debut. The Golden Eagles need between 70-80 shotgun snaps per game from the center, and Quattrochi delivered.
Said Fedora: "I think we looked back, and there was one that was maybe a little bit low. For that, you've got to commend the guy. That's a heck of job in your first real game as a starter."
Series History: Southern Miss leads, 5-1 (Last meeting, 2010, 41-16 Southern Miss)
Scouting The Offense: Last year, the Golden Eagles' offense was ranked among the top 20 nationally based on the strength of a running game that averaged 200 rushing yards per game. In Week One this year, with most of the same parts and against a mediocre defense, the Golden Eagles didn't muster 160 yards. Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora gave the offensive line a D for their Week One performance.
Scouting The Defense: Southern Miss' first game in the 4-2-5 set went well. It's early, but the Golden Eagles rank among the top 25 nationally in rush defense, pass efficiency defense and total defense. Southern Miss logged 12 tackles for loss last week. Only two teams in the country had more in Week One.
Quote To Note: "It's a conference game, and it's huge. It's not only a conference game, but a divisional game. We'll forget about (the win over Louisiana Tech) and get ready for a huge game next week." - Southern Miss QB Austin Davis.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
This Week's Game: Southern Miss at Marshall-Last year the Golden Eagles started Conference USA play against the Thundering Herd and rolled to a 41-16 win. Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora expects a closer game. First, the game's on the road. Second, the Marshall coaching staff has a year under its belt. If Southern Miss is a Conference USA title contender, it needs to win this game.
Keys To The Game: Marshall starts a freshman at quarterback, Rakeem Cato. Southern Miss has a defense capable of rattling the young player, and if it can disrupt plays in the backfield as it did last week, then Marshall could be in for another lopsided game. The Golden Eagles' offense needs to show the punch it had last season. Getting an early lead against will help.
Players To Watch:
QB Austin Davis - For the first time since last September's game against Kanas, David didn't throw a touchdown pass. He didn't have a bad game, rushing for 51 yards and passing for 226, but the Southern Miss offense was disappointing. A strong game by Davis could spark the offense against Marshall.
DE Cordarro Law - He has a new nickname according to the Hattiesburg American: The Law. After last week's two-sack, eight-tackle performance against Louisiana Tech, he should be on the mind of Marshall's freshman quarterback, Rakeem Cato. If he keeps up his level of play, don't be surprised to see him face double teams, giving a teammate a chance to make plays.
K Danny Hrapmann - Last week, Hrapmann made a game-winning kick, but he had to sit during two key field goals because of leg cramps. His backup performed admirably, but Southern Miss will need Hrapmann to get healthy for the rest of the season.