Defense keeps bowl eligibility hopes alive

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The Southern Miss’ defense has been an unsung hero for the Golden Eagles for the majority of the 2018 football season, and against Marshall they made their presence known.

As solid as Southern Miss’ defense has been for the majority of the season, turnovers have been hard to come by.  However, in the team’s 26-24 win over Marshall, the turnovers came at the most crucial time. The Golden Eagles grabbed four turnovers against the Thundering Herd, which is roughly a fourth of the season’s turnovers.  

“Our defense takes a lot of pride in stopping the run and its pass capability,” Hopson said in the postgame press conference. I’ve been a defensive coach forever, and you can’t just stop one side. You have to stop both. Marshall’s a team that can play through the air and ground, and our defense practiced and prepared extremely hard all week.”

Junior defensive back Ty Williams’ interception in the second quarter was the momentum booster for the Golden Eagles, as just two plays later Darian Yancey’s scoop and score touchdown was the highlight of the day for the Southern Miss’ defense.  

“We take a lot of pride in our front seven, especially with the defensive line,” Yancey said. “We want to push the offensive line back and get past the line of scrimmage. We made sure we got out there.”

Overall, Southern Miss has held teams to just 112 rushing yards per game.  For context, Marshall entered Saturday’s game averaging 169 yards and was held to just 31 rushing yards.  

“I feel we have the best defense in the country,” Williams said. “We wouldn’t be anything without the guys up front. We have Jacques Turner, Ladarius Harris and all those guys. They send a lot of pressure, and it’s hard to handle that.”

Junior defensive back Ky’el Hemby’s interception helped to seal the game in the third quarter and if anything, it killed all of Marshall’s remaining momentum.

“We’ve been talking all week about getting turnovers,” Williams said. “It started early in the season, and Coach Hopson told us before the game that we needed to get some and be relentless.”

Another key statistic was holding Marshall on 5 of 13 on third down conversions.  Southern Miss is second in Conference USA on holding teams on third down, where they have allowed first downs on third down plays just 32% of the time.  

Currently, Southern Miss is listed as the second-best defense in Conference USA behind UAB and has given up an average of just 18 points per game. The Golden Eagle defense has kept Southern Miss alive in every game this season.  

Southern Miss will go on the road to play UAB on Nov. 10 in Birmingham, Alabama at 6:30 p.m.