Herd to thunder into The Rock for homecoming
Published: Thursday, October 18, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 18, 2012 00:10
After struggling with running teams for the last four weeks, Southern Miss will catch a break on Saturday. The reward is an opportunity to face the nation’s highest rated quarterback in completions per game and passing yards per game.
Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato leads the NCAA with 36.3 completions per game and 385.2 passing yards per game. His main targets are wide receivers Tommy Shuler and Aaron Dobson, who rank in the top 50 in receiving yards per game. The three highlight a Marshall offense that is scoring more than 40 points a game.
“It’s a totally different game this week,” Defensive Coordinator Tommy West said. “He’s [Cato’s] playing really good. They have a couple wide outs that are NFL (worthy) guys. If you sit back in zone coverage, they’ll get their 400 yards passing on you. You have to mix it up.”
Against UCF, the Southern Miss offense took a step in the right direction. The Golden Eagles scored more than 20 points for the first time all season. Quarterback Anthony Alford and company should have plenty of opportunities to improve even more against Marshall.
The Thundering Herd are last in the NCAA in points allowed per game, with 44.5. Freshman running back Jalen Richard had a coming out party last week against UCF, rushing for 87 yards and two touchdowns. He and senior Desmond Johnson should find plenty of room in the running game, as Marshall ranks 111th of 120 NCAA teams in rush yards allowed per game.
“We have to eliminate drive killers: drops, missed assignments, not converting third and one,” Offensive Coordinator Steve Buckley said. “We have to sustain drives through execution. It’s a game where we do need to score some points.”
The Eagles return home in search of their first win of the season. The team will wear throwback jerseys from the 1970s and look to “Let the Good Times Soar.” There is still a chance to reach six wins and become bowl eligible, but one more loss would finish the Eagles’ postseason hopes.
“I think [the fire is still there],” said Head Coach Ellis Johnson. “There’s been a little frustration just like anybody would be if they were going through what we’ve been through. There haven’t been any bad attitudes or any give up. They [the team] came back Sunday. They had good attitudes and good work habits on the field. That’s all you could ask from them.”