Eagles face another nationally ranked foe
Published: Thursday, October 4, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 4, 2012 01:10
Southern Miss has not had the easiest road during the first third of the season, and it will not get any easier this Saturday when USA Today’s No. 25 ranked team, the Boise State Broncos, visit Hattiesburg. The Broncos are 3-1 this season with their only loss coming at Michigan State opening weekend.
Like the Golden Eagles, Boise State is replacing a four-year starting quarterback who took their program to new heights. Kellen Moore set the record for most wins by a Division I quarterback, as he accumulated 50 wins over his four-year career. Red-shirt junior Joe Southwick has been tabbed with the job of following Moore.
Southwick is completing 65 percent of his passes with 929 yards and five touchdowns this season. He has been up and down this year, having his best games against lower competition. His main target is sophomore wide receiver Matt Miller. The Broncos, like the last two Golden Eagle opponents, will rely heavily on a strong running back combination. Senior D.J. Harper and red-shirt freshman Jay Ajayi lead the way on the ground.
Boise State’s biggest strength this year has been their defense. They rank No. 24 in the country in points against and have allowed more than 20 points only once. The Broncos boast a +6 turnover margin and are only allowing 315.5 yards per game, good enough for No. 23 in the country.
The challenge of getting the Southern Miss offense in gear will once again fall to quarterback Ricky Lloyd. Little was seen of Lloyd’s passing ability during last week’s game due to the weather. The Eagles attempted nine passes, one of which was by a running back, and completed two of them for a total of 25 yards. Against Western Kentucky, Lloyd came in after injuries to Chris Campbell and Anthony Alford and completed four of five passes for 72 yards and a touchdown.
Ricky Lloyd and the Eagles will once again lean on a running game to carry them against Boise State. Southern Miss rushed for a season high 48 attempts and gained a season high 224 yards on the ground against Louisville. Desmond Johnson and the rest of the running backs should find room against Boise State, who allowed 210 yards rushing to Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell.
Saturday will be another tough test for the Golden Eagles. The offense will be challenged against a tough defense. The defense will be tested against a style of offense that has bothered them all season. During Monday’s press conference, head coach Ellis Johnson said of the team, “We talked about them being young early in the year and handling tough situations, and I see it changing.”
“Hopefully it will be a steady progress and we’ll keep on changing and not take a step back,” Johnson said. “There’s no question that we were better in that area, and it turned into that type of ball game where they got tested over and over, and I thought they did step up and play physical.”