Southern Miss will visit Boise St. to play on the “Smurf Turf” and attempt to finally end the losing streak Saturday Sept. 28.
The Golden Eagles had the last week off and head coach Todd Monken and coordinators utilized the opportunity to correct the flaws that have led to a disappointing 0-3 start.
“We focused on ourselves, alignment, assignment, our effort, our energy, our body language and now we’re looking forward to this Saturday going out and playing a tremendous football team,” Monken said in a recent interview.
The Eagles will face a 2-2 Broncos team that has yet to lose on its own field. Boise St. has won all three previous meetings against Southern Miss, including a 40-14 blowout in last year’s contest.
Coach Monken stressed the issue of turnovers and how the team will need to show poise and confidence.
“We’ve done a better job the last couple of weeks of protecting the football,” Monken said. “There’s just no way we can go into a shell and fear every time we throw the ball we think it’s going to be a turnover or every time we run it we’re going to fumble it. We just have to do it better.”
Quarterback Allan Bridgford ranks fifth in Conference USA with 732 passing yards, but has contributed to the turnover numbers with seven interceptions.
The running game has been a weakness for the Golden Eagles’ offense. Jalen Richard’s team-leading 115 yards on the ground is only good enough for 21st in C-USA. The Eagles average 68 yards a game rushing and have yet to run for a touchdown.
“If we’re really good and we’re cooking, we would have to run or a heck of a lot more for the numbers they gave us in the box,” Monken said when asked about the running game’s performance against Arkansas. “We just got our pad level down and that’s where we were much better. We were much better up front and the looks were better.”
The turnovers and lack of possession time has put the Southern Miss defense in difficult positions. Despite only allowing 337.7 yards a game, the unit has given up 34 points per game.
Leading the defense is Alan Howze’s 34 tackles and Kelsey Douglas’ lone interception. The squad will need to minimize errors against a Boise St. offense that has been a monster in the Mountain West Conference for the last decade.
By utilizing an elite dual-threat offense, the Broncos have accumulated 478 yards per game and 37.8 points per game. The dominant offense ran more than 100 plays in a loss to 25th ranked Fresno St. last week.
Second-year starter Joe Southwick has 986 yards passing with six touchdowns and three interceptions. The senior has completed 72 percent of his throws and has shown an ability to extend plays and scramble, accumulating 124 yards on the ground with two touchdowns.
Southwick’s job is made easier by one of the nation’s deepest receiving corps. Matt Miller is the third-leading receiver in the MWC with 30 receptions. His 281 yards and reception touchdown pair nicely with Kirby Moore’s 195 yards and two touchdowns.
The offense doesn’t stop with the passing game; the Broncos’ running backs have helped to keep double coverage off its receivers and force linebackers to respect the ground game. The tandem of Jay Ajayi and Aaron Baltazar has combined for 550 yards rushing and nine touchdowns.
“It still comes down to turnovers and not giving up big plays,” Monken said when asked how his team will stop the elite Broncos’ offense. “It becomes taxing when you’re out there a long time, and you’re trying to sub in and out. But we can only control what we can control and that’s moving the ball and scoring points and then what they do is what they do.”
The Eagles will need to match the Broncos point for point in what will likely be an offensive showdown. This contest will conclude the daunting three-game road trip before returning home to face Florida International Saturday Oct. 5.