Offensive struggles keeps USM from pulling off upset

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De'Michael Harris catches the ball.

On Saturday night, Southern Miss took on UAB in Alabama in what was a hard-fought game from both teams, but the outcome was a different story.

All season long the Southern Miss defense has been keeping them in games, and the team’s 26-23 loss to UAB was not any different. Southern Miss came into this game with one of the best defenses in the C-USA. Defensive Coordinator Tim Billings has done an incredible job with the defense and it has shown because it’s the defense that keeps them in games.

Coming into the game, UAB was 8-1 and undefeated in conference games. So, one would think that this would be a tough game for the Golden Eagles. However, Southern Miss managed to take this game into overtime before giving up a 17-yard touchdown to end the game.

The story behind the loss to UAB was the Southern Miss offense, a unit that has been up and down for much of the season. The Golden Eagles managed to only get 165 yards of total offense in the game, including only five net rushing yards on the ground. That stat alone is not going to help you win most games if any. Freshman quarterback Tate Whatley completed 16-of-39 passes for 160 yards while throwing one interception and a touchdown. The freshman made his second straight start in Saturday’s while starting quarterback Jack Abraham nursed an injury.

Southern Miss’ offensive line struggled against UAB’s pass rush the entire game. The Golden Eagles gave up a total of seven sacks. The running game was nonexistent as well, as redshirt freshman Darius Maberry only rushed for 22 yards on nine carries in his first appearance of the season. Wide receiver Quez Watkins did manage to have a good game though, catching seven passes on 17 targets for 109 yards and a touchdown.

Another positive sign was Southern Miss secondary, who came up with three huge interceptions to keep them in the game. It was an interception by junior defensive back Ky’el Hemby in the fourth quarter that allowed Southern Miss to have good field position, setting up a touchdown drive to tie the game at 20-20 midway through the quarter.

The focal point for the remaining two games should be finding an identity on offense. Southern Miss can be over .500 if they have consistency on offense, as the defense is keeping them in games. It is now on the offense to finish them.

The Golden Eagles return home for the final home game of the season next Saturday to take on Louisiana Tech at 2:30 p.m.