HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Head Coach Ellis Johnson called Anthony Alford's season a "roller coaster ride." It seems an awful lot like the same ride Southern Miss fans have jumped on many times this season, doesn't it?
Every great play made by the Golden Eagles' defense and/or offense is then followed by one or two more bad plays. What looks like a win then spirals into another one of the Eagles' nine losses this season.
Riding front and center on this ride is the true freshman Alford, who completed only 10-of-26 passes for 112 yards, no touchdowns, an interception, and he was sacked once against UAB last weekend. Despite the lack of offense production, particularly in the passing game against the Blazers, the coaching staff plans on sticking with Alford for the foreseeable future.
"There's a lot of things contributing to the passing game other than the play of the quarterback," said Johnson at his weekly press conference on Monday, "Anthony did not have a great day by any stretch, but...he's not pulling the trigger because the rout's not there."
The team's offensive coordinator echoed those sentiments a little later. "I think the problems are a culmination of quarterback not making the throws on time, and receivers not being in the right spot on time," said Steve Buckley, "I'm not going to pin it on any individual."
Both coaches also pointed out the inconsistent play on the offensive line, but Johnson also noticed the lack of consistent game action for Alford. In his second start at Western Kentucky, Alford injured his right knee and did not return for three weeks. Against Central Florida, the former high school All-American, without question, turned in his best performance of the year.
Alford completed 14 of 27 passes for 165 yards, and rushed 12 times for 71 yards and two touchdowns in a 38-31 double-overtime loss in Orlando. He started the following week in a 59-24 loss homecoming loss to Marshall, but again, had to be relieved due to turf-toe, and didn't see any action in a 44-17 setback the following week to Rice.
"He hasn't had an opportunity for things out of his control, to make steady, and constant improvement. It's been up and down," said Johnson.
Red shirt junior Chris Campbell, who started the season-opener at Nebraska, has also been out since Western Kentucky due to injury. For the first time since that game, he dawned full pads and was ready to go if needed in the team's 27-19 loss last Saturday.
The coaching staff remains committed to Alford, barring injury or some significant development in practice. Whether the Alford-slash-Southern Miss roller coaster goes up or down this weekend at Southern Methodist remains to be seen, but its safe to assume a lot of USM faithful are getting motion-sick.