USM faces challenge at ODU

USM faces challenge at ODU

NORFOLK, VA - The University of Southern Miss needs one more victory in its final three games to qualify for a second, consecutive trip to a postseason football game.

The quest starts at 2:30 p.m. when the Golden Eagles (5-4, 3-2 Conference USA) visit Old Dominion University (6-3, 4-1) at Ballard Stadium in Norfolk, Virginia.

USM has dropped three of its last four games, including a 38-27 home loss to Charlotte University last week.

The Monarchs have won five of their last six games, including a 38-14 victory over visiting Marshall University last weekend.

Despite the slump, USM still can defend its West Division crown. The Golden Eagles would have to win its last three games and have University of Texas-San Antonio lose one of its last two.

But Southern Miss coach Jay Hopson said the Golden Eagles ill can afford looking beyond the game in front of them.

"The reality is we just have to go out and get a win," Hopson said. "That's what it's about. We have to focus on one game and the reality is we have to focus on one game. You can't look too far down the road. We just have to get ready and prepare hard."

Hopson still has not completely clarified the status of either of the Golden Eagles' top two quarterbacks, senior starter Nick Mullens or junior backup Parker Adamson, though he did say earlier in the week that both would make the trip north.

Both were injured in the final 25 minutes of the 49ers' game, and both were on the sidelines at the final whistle.

Hopson has declined to specify the injury to either, though both appeared to take hard hits to the head while running with the football.

"They will be there," Hopson said following a Tuesday practice. "We will make that decision on Nick Friday and Parker will be ready on Saturday."

Old Dominion has relied on quarterback David Washington and running backs Ray Lawry and Jeremy Cox have been the main fuel for the Monarchs' offensive engine.

Washington has completed 57.8 percent of his passes for 1,947 yards and 19 touchdowns with just three interceptions.

Lawry leads the Monarchs with 740 yards and six touchdowns, while Cox has run for 483 yards and scored a team-high 10 touchdowns.

The offense can be explosive, which is not good news for a Golden Eagle defense that has been susceptible to the big play this season.

Washington has thrown eight passes of 40-plus yards this season, and has a 41-yard run. Lawry and Cox have three runs of 40-plus yards between them.

It is an offense that also takes care of the football.

The Monarchs have committed six turnovers, while their defense has come up with 16 takeaways. The 10-plus turnover margin is tops in C-USA.

USM ranks last in turnover margin, coughing up the football 20 times while coming with eight takeaways.

In its last five games, the Golden Eagles have forced just one turnover.

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