Posted: Sep 16, 2011 9:44 AM by Lauren Wilson & AP
HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) - Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora has a knack for rallying the troops, but he didn't plan on having to do it this early in the season.
After an eyebrow-raising 26-20 loss to Marshall in its conference opener last week, Southern Miss (1-1) is looking to regroup with Saturday's 6:30 p.m. game against Southeastern Louisiana.
Against Marshall, the Golden Eagles were held to 75 rushing yards, dropped six passes, gave up five sacks and turned the ball over six times. After a loss like that, Fedora and his staff aren't looking at Southeastern Louisiana as just another Football Championship Subdivision opponent.
"I'll be completely honest with you," Fedora said. "I don't even know what (FCS) stands for. All I know is there's another team coming in here Saturday wanting to play a football game and we have to have a chip on our shoulder."
The Golden Eagles returned 12 starters from a team that went 8-5 a year ago, including the team's leading rusher, receiver and passer, but it hasn't clicked through two games this season.
With Tropical Storm Lee hovering over the Hattiesburg area during the season opener against Louisiana Tech, dropped passes and low production in the running game in a 19-17 were chalked to heavy rain and poor footing.
But the Golden Eagles' problems were magnified at Marshall, and their rushing yardage fell from 158 in week one to just 68 yards in week two. Since Monday, the message has been regrouping and getting back to the basics of blocking.
"Obviously for a game and a half we haven't played up to any kind of standards - not to my personal standards or Southern Miss standards," USM offensive line coach Chris Kapilovic said. "Against Louisiana Tech, we pass blocked really well but we were terrible in the run game. Against Marshall, we did fairly well in the first half, then got backed up against our own goal line in the second half and gave up a couple of sacks on one drive.
"That's not what we're about. We have to do a better job in the run game give us confidence to pound the ball more."
Senior quarterback Austin Davis has taken six sacks and struggled to a quarterback rating of 102.95, ranking him 10th in Conference USA. But he didn't blame the offensive line on his subpar numbers.
"You see `dropped passes' and think that's all on the wide receivers," Davis said. "But it has just as much to do with me and where I put the ball. We've got to work on our timing and location, and a lot of that has to do with my footwork when I set to throw. It's been an emphasis in practice this week."
Even with the Marshall setback, Southern Miss coaches still feel they are on the verge of a breakout season, pointing to improvements on the defensive side of the ball.
"Everything is still out ahead of us," Fedora said. "But we can't concentrate on the big picture. We've got to focus on putting our best game on the field this Saturday."