Southern Miss was unable to capitalize on opportunities to notch their first win of the season Saturday when the Eagles lost to Arkansas 24-3.
The Razorbacks entered the game well prepared for the Golden Eagles and did not allow them to score a single touchdown in Razorback Stadium. USM’s only score came from a 27-yard field goal by Corey Acosta in the second quarter. Other than that, Arkansas did all the scoring.
Arkansas scored their first touchdown on a 5-yard rush by starting quarterback Brandon Allen, giving them a 7-0 first quarter lead. Though Allen left the game with a bruised shoulder as a result of the play, his absence did not impair the Arkansas offense in the slightest.
In the 42 minutes of football after Acosta’s field goal, Arkansas scored 17 unanswered points. The Arkansas rushing duo of Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams rushed for a combined 231 yards and two touchdowns.
The Razorbacks’ defense recorded two interceptions, two tackles-for-loss and three sacks en route to stifling the USM offense. Defensive end Chris Smith accounted for all three sacks for Arkansas.
The Eagles had only 254 total yards of offense and three points to show for their efforts. Despite several opportunities, the Eagles never managed to get into the end zone.
“I think our problem when we get in the red zone is that we kill ourselves,” said Jalen Richard, who rushed for 94 yards on 14 carries. “It always starts with that. If your alignment’s wrong, you’re dead from the start, or penalties, delay of games or such and such. I think that’s the only thing killing us right now, is ourselves when we get in the red zone.”
“That is one thing we take pride in is keeping other teams out of the end zone,” said Arkansas defensive end Trey Flowers. “They got a field goal today, but when they got it in the red zone it was one of those bend but don’t break defensive efforts.”
Though Southern Miss lost the game, the team demonstrated aspects that indicated the Eagles are on the rise. Their rushing attack improved as USM gained 119 rushing yards which is a good indication they are becoming more balanced.
The Eagles’ defense held up during the first half, with the team entering halftime down only 10-3. However, Arkansas’ offense had the ball for over ten minutes more and their running game gradually wore the defense down.
“It’s been encouraging for three weeks that our defense has given us a chance to compete,” head coach Todd Monken said after the game. “But right now their margin for error is so small because we’re just not scoring enough. That’s obvious. That’s not rocket science. We’ve got to get down there and score touchdowns.”
USM showed some signs that they are finally close to turning the corner. The defense did well against its first SEC opponent since 2010. The running game showed improvement, but turnovers and missed blocks continue to be a problem for the Golden Eagles.
Fortunately, they will have two much-needed weeks to make adjustments before playing Boise State on Sept. 28.
“I still believe we have a good football team,” Monken said. “I told our team today that I couldn’t be prouder of their effort. That’s all we can ever ask for is that our guys buy in, play hard, continue to fight, and they do that. That’s all you can ask as a coach.”