Southern Miss (0-2) at Western Kentucky (2-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 22, 7:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium (30,850) --
Bowling Green, Kentucky. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Southern Miss
0-1, Western Kentucky 1-0. Away Record: Southern Miss 0-1, Western Kentucky
1-1. Neutral Record: Troy 0-0, North Texas 0-0. Conference Record: Southern
Miss 0-1, Western Kentucky 0-0. Series Record: First meeting.
GAME NOTES: After a huge win over an SEC school last week, the Western
Kentucky Hilltoppers will try to capture another non-conference win when they
host the Southern Miss Golden Eagles at Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith
Southern Miss has yet to record a win this season with losses at Nebraska
(49-20) and at home against East Carolina (24-14). The loss to the Pirates
occurred last weekend and ended a 13-game winning streak for the Eagles in
home openers. Southern Miss has now opened the season at 0-2 for the first
time since 1998.
In a thrilling overtime matchup, Western Kentucky downed instate foe Kentucky
last weekend, marking the Hilltoppers' first win in school history against the
Wildcats and first against an SEC opponent. After the Wildcats scored a
touchdown on the opening possession of overtime, the Hilltoppers answered with
a score of their own and won the game on a successful two-point conversion.
Anthony Alford made his first career start last week at quarterback for
Southern Miss. He is the first true freshmen to start a game for the Golden
Eagles since 2003. Alford played the entire first half but was pulled in the
third quarter after completing 6-of-14 passes for 88 yards and an
interception. Alford is a mobile signal caller who gained 74 yards on the
ground in the game, but thanks to three sacks and a number of negative run
ended with only 13 net yards.
Chris Campbell took over in the third quarter and completed 11-of-21 attempts
for 145 yards and a score, meaning Southern Miss may continue to use two
quarterbacks this season.
However the situation under center is eventually settled, the offense
certainly needs to be more productive. Right now the Golden Eagles are second
to last in the conference in yards (292.0) and points (17.0) per game.
Struggling to find a quarterback hasn't helped as the team is last in
Conference USA in passing yards (308). The squad could also use more from the
The offense was also hurt by turnovers, with Southern Miss coughing up the
ball three times in the game including a fumble in the third quarter that was
returned for a touchdown.
Through the first two games Southern Miss is surrendering 36.5 points and 430
yards per game, but those numbers are largely skewed by the week one loss to
Nebraska. The Golden Eagles looked much better defensively against East
Carolina, holding the Pirates to just 228 total yards.
The Golden Eagles were particularly stingy against the run, limiting the
Pirates to 1.7 yards per carry, which equated to just 57 yards on 33 carries.
The defense also kept the Pirates out of the red zone, with only two defensive
series inside its own 25 and also allowed just a 4-for-15 conversion rate on
Alan Howze and Michael Smith each recorded one of the team's two sacks in the
game and Martez Thompson and Jamie Collins tied with a team-high seven
tackles. Collins had two for loss.
It would have been tough for Western Kentucky to have a more balanced
offensive effort in terms of yards gained against Kentucky. The Hilltoppers
compiled 163 yards rushing and 160 yards passing. However a glance at the play
calls shows that Willie Taggart wants his team to run the ball as much as
possible. Of a total 73 plays in the game, Western Kentucky ran the ball 51
That type of effort helped in the red zone, where the Hilltoppers converted
four of five trips into touchdowns. The heavy dose of running also gave the
Hilltoppers a 13-minute advantage in terms of time of possession.
Antonio Andrews was the workhorse in the backfield, carrying the ball 34 times
for 125 yards and three of those scores. Andrew also led the team with 36
yards receiving. For his effort, Andrews was chosen as the Sun Belt Conference
Offensive Player of the Week.
Also receiving Player of the Week honors were safety Jonathan Dowling
(defensive) and punter Hendrix Brakefield (special teams). Dowling snagged
three interceptions in the game. Brakefield averaged 40.2 yards per punt,
including a season-high 51-yarder and also had a kick land inside the 20 in
the fourth quarter.
With Dowling making plays on the ball, some of the mistakes of the Western
Kentucky defense were covered up. The Hilltoppers still surrendered 373 yards
in the game, mostly through the air. The Wildcats had 332 yards passing on 61
Western Kentucky did do a solid job against the run, surrendering only 41
yards on the ground. Xavius Boyd led the team with 10 tackles in the contest,
while Bar'ee Boyd had the team's only sack.
All the momentum in this game will be on Western Kentucky's side with the team
coming off a historic victory. That won't be all the Hilltoppers have going
for them with a more reliable offense than Southern Miss, which is still
trying to find an identity and stability at quarterback.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Western Kentucky 24, Southern Miss 19
09/19 10:43:38 ET