Virginia (0-2) at Southern Mississippi (2-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 19th, 3:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: MM Roberts Stadium (36,000) -- Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Television: CBS College Sports. Home Record: Virginia 0-2, Southern Mississippi 2-0. Away Record: Virginia 0-0, Southern Mississippi 0-0. Neutral Record: Virginia 0-0, Southern Mississippi 0-0. Conference Record: Virginia 0-0, Southern Mississippi 1-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: Southern Mississippi and Virginia will tangle on the gridiron for the first-time ever this Saturday when the Golden Eagles host the Cavaliers at MM Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg.
The Cavaliers have struggled to open the new season, losing their first two matchups, both at home. Virginia began the season with a surprising 26-14 setback to William & Mary, and followed that loss with a rough, 30-14 pummeling at the hands of then 16th-ranked TCU. The Cavs have not enjoyed much success in road openers, as the team is just 42-72-3 all-time. Last season Virginia struggled as the visitor, posting a meager 1-4 ledger.
As for the Golden Eagles, they have been perfect in the early stages of 2009. Southern Mississippi opened the new campaign with a convincing 52-0 decision over Alcorn State, and backed that victory up with a solid, 26-19 win over UCF. After this contest the Golden Eagles will hit the road for three straight matchups, beginning with a meeting against Kansas.
The Cavaliers' performance on the offensive side of the ball has been dreadful in the early stages of this season, producing a meager 222.5 total ypg. The ground game has been ineffective, as the team is churning out just 94.0 yards per matchup on an equally poor 2.6 ypc. The struggles for Virginia's rushing attack continued in the team's recent loss to TCU, as the Cavs were held to just 57 yards on 1.7 yards per attempt. Quarterback Jameel Sewell led the way for Virginia in the loss, but tallied just 35 yards on 21 attempts. The signal caller had a slightly better game with his arm, throwing for 120 yards and two touchdowns. However, Sewell was also intercepted once and sacked eight times. The senior quarterback has been inconsistent on the year, completing just 48.6 percent of his passes, while tossing two TDs against four interceptions.
The Cavaliers had no answer for the Horned Frogs' ground game, which punished Virginia for 203 yards and two scores on 4.1 yards per carry. Although the season is still very young, the Cavs have shown cracks in their ability to stop the run, as the defensive unit is being abused for 164.0 rushing yards per matchup. In the setback to TCU, the Cavs did very little defensively, as the team surrendered 380 total yards, while forcing only one turnover and recording just two sacks. Virginia struggled against TCU, allowing the Horned Frog to convert on all five of their red zone chances. After two games opponents are a perfect 18-of-18 inside Virginia's 20-yard line. Darren Childs led the way with 12 tackles in the loss, while Corey Mosley added 10 stops.
Unlike their counterpart, the Golden Eagles have soared in 2009, racking up 507.5 total yards per game. Southern Miss is averaging 243.0 yards through the air, but what has driven this unit is the success of the ground game, which is punishing the opposition for 264.5 ypg. In the recent win over UCF, veteran Damion Fletcher paced the Golden Eagles with 103 yards and one touchdown on 4.9 ypc. The tailback has been outstanding in the team's first two matchups, rushing for 229 yards and two scores on 5.7 yards per tote. Leading the passing attack has been Austin Davis, who has been lights out for USM, completing 75.0 percent of his passes, while throwing four touchdowns and no interceptions. In the victory over the Knights the sophomore signal caller was impressive, throwing for 253 yards and one touchdown on 23-of-31 passing.
Not to be out done has been the defensive unit which has been a dominating force in the first two games, limiting opponents to just 9.5 ppg. Southern Mississippi has been stout against the run, holding teams to just 38.5 yards per matchup on only 1.4 yards per attempt. In the win over UCF, the Golden Eagles stymied the Knights' rushing attack, holding them to just 15 yards on 27 attempts. Southern Mississippi forced two turnovers in the win, and also collected three sacks. Korey Williams has posted seven tackles, two TFLs and one forced fumble thus far, while Cordarro Law has added seven stops, three TFLs and two sacks.
The Golden Eagles should continue their strong play this weekend against a struggling Virginia squad. Look for Fletcher to continue his solid season as he leads Southern Miss to its third win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Southern Mississippi 39, Virginia 14
09/16 10:34:12 ET