With one football game played in the remnants of hurricane and another cancelled by another, the University of Louisiana-Monroe will offer more than a bit of intrigue for the University of Southern Mississippi.
The Golden Eagles (1-1) will arrive at Malone Stadium for the first time at 6 p.m. Saturday with nothing more than a game tape of a windy, rainy night in Memphis, Tenn., to gauge the Warhawks (0-1).
Louisiana-Monroe lost 37-29 on Aug. 31 at the University of Memphis in game drenched by a weather system born from Hurricane Harvey. The Warhawks scheduled Sept. 9 meeting at Florida State University was scuttled by the impending approach of Hurricane Irma.
“You’d rather have tape of two games rather than one, for sure, to gain more knowledge of a team,” USM defensive coordinator Tony Pecoraro said. “You’d like to have one game to go off of, but at least we’ve got something.”
USM offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said the Golden Eagles likely will have to adjust their game plan even more than normal.
“It’s kind of hard to tell right now because we don’t have a lot of information,” Dawson said. “We have one game that was monsoon. Memphis didn’t really try to throw the ball and you really couldn’t. You can watch the game, and they couldn’t really get a grip on the ball.
“So, going into this week, it’s going to be, ‘Well, let’s figure out what they’re going to do,’ because from now going back to last year, they’re a couple personalities popping their heads up, so I really don’t know what to expect from them. But we’re going to have a plan for anything, and then we’re going to have to adjust throughout the course of the game.”
Pecoraro said he and the staff have gleaned enough information to know USM will have to be on its toes Saturday night.
“They’re a very good football team,” Pecoraro said. “They like to run the football, so we have to be able to stop the run, for sure.
“They play two quarterbacks. They did that a lot last year, play two quarterbacks, so I think they’ll do that for sure. The offensive line is really big and their running back (junior Derrick Gore) is really good. They like to get the ball to (junior receiver Marcus Green) in a lot of different ways. We’re going to have to be ready.”
Sophomore Caleb Evans and junior Garrett Smith split series during the game against the Tigers, with Evans getting the starting nod. Saturday, Smith is expected to be under center for the first series.
Against Memphis, Smith completed 10 of 17 passes for 171 yards and one touchdown with an interception. Evans completed 11 of 20 passes for 108 yards and a touchdown.
Smith led the Warhawks with 48 yards rushing, while Gore added 41 yards.
But Louisiana-Monroe committed four turnovers, losing three of six fumbles to go with Smith’s pick, and Memphis gouged the Warhawks’ rushing defense, netting 319 yards on the ground, averaging 8.2 yards a carry.
USM ran the ball better last week in a 45-0 rout of Football Championship Division opponent Southern University, running for 197 yards against the Jaguars. Junior T’Rod Daniels led the way with 83 yards and senior Ito Smith added 77 yards. Both backs scored a touchdown.
“We ran the ball well Saturday, not great all the time, but it was definitely better,” Dawson said.
Redshirt junior Kwadra Griggs will make his second career start, though sophomore Keon Howard _ who started USM’s first game against the University of Kentucky _ also played against Southern U.
Griggs completed 15 of 29 passes for 209 yards and two scores and has yet to throw an interception in 49 attempts this season.
“What (Griggs) did in the second half against Kentucky (15 of 26, 222 yards, two touchdowns) and that (last) game, I thought he played well,” Dawson said. “Nobody plays perfect and there’re obviously some things to clean up, but he’s definitely the guy moving forward.”