Eagles aim to end losing streak Saturday
Published: Thursday, September 20, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 20, 2012 00:09
Southern Miss defensive coordinator Tommy West looked to simplify things on the defensive end last weekend against East Carolina. He hoped to allow his players to think less and play more, and it worked. After allowing 632 yards and 49 points to Nebraska, the Golden Eagles allowed 228 yards and 24 points to East Carolina, seven of which were on a fumble recovery.
“I’m going to move at their pace, not my pace,” West said. “The opponent was different, but I thought we were more aggressive. I think that had something to do with me letting them play and not trying to out-coach the other team.”
This week will provide a different test for Southern Miss’s defense. The first week tested the Eagles with a spread option attack while East Carolina, like most of Conference USA, attacked with an air raid style. Western Kentucky runs a West Coast style offense, which means running backs and tight ends are involved in the passing game as opposed to going with four wide receivers.
The Hilltoppers run a balanced offense. In their overtime win against SEC foe Kentucky, WKU rushed for 163 yards and passed for 160 yards. The player to watch for is junior running back Antonio Andrews, who leads the team in rushing, is second in receiving and is their main kickoff and punt returner. Senior quarterback Kawaun Jakes will look for fellow senior Jack Doyle, who leads the team in receiving as the starting tight end.
Two big questions remain to be answered for the Southern Miss offense. Who will be the quarterback? How will injuries to left guard Joe Duhan and wide receiver Tracey Lampley hinder their contribution on Saturday?
Duhon injured his hamstring during the East Carolina game but still was able to contribute. Sophomore Tyler Wilson will step in if Duhon is not able to play and has been practicing with the first team this week. Coaches are confident in Wilson’s ability and hope not to face the possibility of replacing him. Replacing him would mean moving players around, which could interfere with the cohesion of the offensive line. A lack of effectiveness by the offensive line could be the Eagles’ doom, as the Hilltoppers have recorded nine sacks through three games.
Lampley has a banged-up knee and will be limited in practice this week. Head Coach Ellis Johnson expects Lampley to be ready for Saturday. The biggest issue with Lampley will be getting him the ball; he recorded only five touches against East Carolina.
Freshman quarterback Anthony Alford was named starter against East Carolina after junior Chris Campbell was dubbed the starter out of camp. This week’s starting quarterback could be announced right before the game. Johnson described their play in East Carolina as “hot and cold.” The difference between the two was the potential for explosive plays from Alford and the steadiness of Campbell, according to Johnson. Campbell and Alford split snaps this week in practice, and the staff will decide who gets the start.
The Golden Eagles will face a team with a lot of confidence coming off maybe the biggest win in school history against Kentucky. It could be a long season at The Rock if Southern Miss stumbles on the road this week.
“Right now they’re playing as well or better than we are,” Johnson said of WKU. “They’re a very good football team.”