Eagles fall in season opener
Published: Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 4, 2012 00:09
While the Golden Eagles (0-1) showed early signs of life against the Cornhuskers (1-0) on Saturday, the game turned into a rout in the second half, as Southern Miss ultimately fell on the road to Nebraska 20-49. The win for Nebraska extended its nation-leading streak of consecutive season opening victories to 27 games.
The Huskers came out of the gates firing on all cylinders, as senior running back Rex Burkhead scampered for a career long 57-yard touchdown run on the fourth play from scrimmage. The Heisman hopeful’s day came to an abrupt end when he sprained his medial collateral ligament later in the first quarter, but running back Ameer Abdullah filled in nicely in his absence. Abdullah rushed for 81 yards on 15 carries and even hauled in an 11-yard touchdown reception midway through the fourth quarter.
The story of the game was Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez, as his 354 passing yards topped his previous career mark of 323 passing yards against Oklahoma State in 2010. Martinez completed 26 of his 34 pass attempts and threw five touchdown passes to five different receivers.
“It’s what I expected from Taylor,” Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini said of Taylor’s performance. “I’ve been seeing a lot of good things. I thought, to be efficient, he had to handle the offense well. I thought he directed things very well. He got us out of some bad plays and into some right plays. For the most part, [he] made good decisions. I know he had one throw that we were lucky to get back, but for the most part, I thought he played very well, very efficient. [He] made good decisions, and he distributed the ball well. I thought there were a lot of positives there.”
Martinez and the Husker offense moved the ball at will against Southern Miss, as the Golden Eagle defense surrendered a dismal 632 yards of total offense and failed to record a single turnover.
“Defensively I think it was poor,” Southern Miss head coach Ellis Johnson said of his team’s performance. “I think that Nebraska is a really good team, so I am not trying to take anything away from them. They probably have a shot to make it a long way in their conference. But I was disappointed. A lot of young guys on our defense showed their youth rather than their talent at times.”
Despite a lackluster defensive performance, there were several bright spots on offense that left Johnson feeling positive after the game.
“A lot of guys did a good job on the offensive side of the ball, although we did have some mistakes,” Johnson said. “We put the ball on the ground once, and a few balls should have been picks. But there are plenty of things to build on, and we can become a pretty good team.”
Southern Miss quarterback Chris Campbell was one player that showed signs of promise, as he completed five of his seven passes for 54 yards in the first half of his first career start. He also tossed a 24-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Dominique Sullivan early in the second quarter, the first of Campbell’s career.
“It felt amazing; it was awesome,” Campbell said of his first career touchdown pass. “It was really fun. It was a dream come true. Like I said, it was an honor and a blessing to play in this stadium in front of this crowd. It was a lot of fun.”
Despite Campbell’s performance, the quarterback competition is still wide open after the game. Campbell, Anthony Alford and Ricky Lloyd are all still competing to be the starting quarterback, and that will not change based on Saturday’s game.
“The thing we are going to do this week is work all three of them again. I thought Chris (Campbell) came out very good, steady and handled a very tough environment really well. The production was there, and he had two good drives. Our running game began to stall a little bit before we put Anthony (Alford) in. The running game then pumped up a little bit, and we got better as the game wore on with him in there,” Johnson said in his weekly press conference on Monday.
Another bright spot for Southern Miss was wide receiver Tracy Lampley, as he took a first quarter kickoff 100 yards to the house. The return touchdown helped spring Lampley into sixth place all-time for all-purpose yards at Southern Miss. Lampley has already exceeded 1,000 career yards for kickoff return and is only 31, 95 and 184 yards away from topping 1,000 career yards in rushing, receiving and punt return, respectively.
Johnson said that Southern Miss will look to build on Saturday’s positive takeaways when it hosts conference for East Carolina at The Rock on Sept. 15. He believes the team will bounce back and be fully prepared for next Saturday.
“They are tough, they are fighters and they are hurt. And they should be. That is the way it is,” Johnson said. “When you are a competitor, failure hurts and you want to improve. That’s all they want to do. You have to do two things. I told them one game cannot beat you twice. Number one, you fix things that were wrong and build on what was good, and number two, you move on.”