HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The University of Southern Mississippi spent its bye week getting back to the basics of football.
Now, the Golden Eagles are hoping that honing the fundamentals will help them get back in the win column.
USM (4-3, 2-1 Conference USA) will welcome Marshall University (2-5, 1-2) for homecoming at 6 p.m. Saturday at Roberts Stadium.
The Golden Eagles will look to snap a two-game losing streak against a team they have not beaten in five years, including the past two meetings in Hattiesburg.
"We know this week is huge," USM coach Jay Hopson said Monday during his weekly news conference. "But our players, our coaches, we all understand."
USM has been hurt the past few games by opponents' big plays, allowing seven plays of 60-plus yards in road losses at Texas-San Antonio and LSU.
But a film session that brought together the entire defensive unit instead of each position watching breakdowns of its own responsibilities opened up some eyes, defensive end Darian Yancey said.
"We just came together as a team and watched film, as a defense," Yancey said. "It was good because we can all understand, like for me it's, 'Where does my linebacker fit?' or for a linebacker, 'OK, where's my safety coming down and fitting?' As a defensive end, it's like, 'OK, do I have the edge or does the corner(back) have the edge?' That's what we need to fix."
USM defensive coordinator Tony Pecoraro said the session provided serious lessons.
"It's just to make sure we're all on the same page and we all see how each one of us affects the other," Pecoraro said. "I think a lot of times when you work individually, you just work on your segment, but then all of sudden, when you get everyone together, they get to see, 'OK, when you jump out of your gap, it affects this player, and then he's got to do something different, and it affects this player.'
"It was just an overall awareness as a defense how each one of us affects the other."
Marshall comes in having dropped two of its first conference games, including a 27-24 decision to Charlotte in Huntington, West Virginia, last week.
But the Herd averages 385.4 yards a game, including 272.6 yards a game passing, out of its spread offense.
"When you look at them on film, it doesn't really look like their record," Pecoraro said. "It looks like they put up a lot of points, and they put up a lot of yards. I don't watch both sides (on film), but the side I see, I see a very talented football team."
Thumbs up for Mullens
Hopson said quarterback Nick Mullens appears to be back to 100 percent after injuring the thumb on his throwing hand against UTSA on Oct. 8.
"(Assistant athletic director for athletic training) Todd (McCall) told me when he did it, he's probably going to be 80 percent for (LSU), and in three weeks, he's going to be 100 percent," Hopson said. "Just watching him throw last compared to the game against LSU was just night and day. He still threw the ball decent at LSU, but now he's really humming it there and got his zip back. So, he's 100 percent. He's throwing it well."
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