Loss to Auburn offers positive takeaways

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AUBURN- Below are some of the key takeaways from Southern Miss’ 24-13 loss to the Auburn Tigers on Sept. 29.

  • Penalties plagued Auburn early

In the first half, Auburn had trouble maintaining drives due to penalties. The Tigers committed seven penalties for 63 yards in the first half. Offensive penalties backed up the Auburn offense on multiple occasions. Things did get better for the Tigers, though, as they only committed two penalties in the second half for a total of nine penalties for 78 yards.

  • Weather delays are no fun

With 4:27 left to play in the first half and Auburn leading Southern Miss 14-3, lightning was detected in the vicinity of Jordan-Hare Stadium. The ensuing delay lasted for a duration of two hours and 44 minutes. The game eventually resumed at 6:54 p.m., but not after multiple extensions of the delay. It was also evident that both teams came out rusty following the delay, as both teams punted on their first drives following the break. As a tired sportswriter who traveled up to Auburn the day of the game and back home afterwards, the delay was certainly no fun.

  • Defensive play was stout

The Southern Miss defense held Auburn senior quarterback Jarrett Stidham and the Auburn offense in check for most of the game. Auburn was forced to punt eight times in the contest and had four three-and-outs on offense. The defensive line and linebackers continuously applied pressure to Stidham, forcing him to make throws and plays outside of the pocket. Additionally, the defense allowed only 96 net rushing yards and tackled well. Holding the No. 10 ranked team in the country to just 24 points is certainly a good statistic and bodes well for the unit’s performance as it heads into the heart of its C-USA schedule.

Southern Miss Head Coach Jay Hopson also thought that the defensive line was good at applying pressure on Stidham throughout the game.

“We did a lot of that with four-man rush, so it wasn’t like there was a whole lot of just true pressure packages just coming out,” Hopson said. “I thought our defensive line played well, I really do. Upfront I thought we were really physical, so that’s something you always love.”

  • Run game struggled against Auburn’s defensive line

Just as the Southern Miss defensive front contained Auburn’s running game, the same can be said for Auburn containing the Golden Eagles on the ground. Since Southern Miss trailed for the majority of the contest, the run game did not have time to get established, but when given the opportunity, the team had trouble on the ground. As a whole, the team had 45 net rushing yards on 21 carries. Freshman running back Trivenskey Mosley led the way with 25 yards on four carries while junior wide receiver De’Michael Harris also had 25 yards on two carries. An interesting tidbit to note is that senior quarterback Kwadra Griggs made his first appearance on the field for Southern Miss since his reinstatement to the team on Sept. 14. Griggs logged one carry for two yards in the second quarter.

  • C-USA West is still wide open

Admittedly, I took the pessimistic view when projecting Southern Miss’ overall and conference record before the start of the season. The projection was a 6-6 overall record with a 4-4 record in C-USA play. While the team will not play 12 total games this season due to the cancellation of the Appalachian State game, the team still has seven conference games left to play. North Texas showed that they are beatable with a 29-27 loss at home to Louisiana Tech. Currently, Southern Miss is in third place in the C-USA West by virtue of its 1-0 conference record. Make no mistake, conference play is just getting into full swing, but North Texas, LA Tech and UAB all serve as challenges for Southern Miss in the West this season. Still, North Texas’ loss to LA Tech shows that these top-tier conference teams are beatable. With the positive performances the team has put out over the past two weeks, Southern Miss has a chance to make my preseason prediction a complete bust.

The Golden Eagles will have a bye this weekend and will return to action against North Texas on Oct. 13 in Denton, Texas.