USM faces tall task in San Antonio

USM faces tall task in San Antonio

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Last Saturday, the University of Southern Mississippi faced the best offensive team, statistically, that Conference USA had to offer.

This weekend, the Golden Eagles go up against the league's best defense.

For a second consecutive season, USM (2-2, 0-1 C-USA) will head to the Alamodome to face the University of Texas-San Antonio (3-0) at 6 p.m. Saturday.

"By far, this will be our biggest challenge of the year, so far," USM offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said. "I think they are (ranked) one and two, statistically, in everything (on defense) and there's a reason for that.

"You look at the cut-ups (coaches' films) of the (three) games and it's amazing. There're just not a lot of cutups. Nobody's running a lot of plays against them. Basically, they're getting a lot of three-and-outs. They're not allowing a lot of third-and-mediums, third-and-shorts. People just aren't moving the ball against."

For the Roadrunners, who had their scheduled season opener with the University of Houston cancelled by Hurricane Harvey, Saturday will mark their opening C-USA game.

For USM, Saturday marks an opportunity to bounce back from a 43-28 stumble against North Texas University last week and a chance to avenge a 55-32 loss at the Alamodome last year that was a football version of the long ago battle that has lent its name to the stadium.

"I remember very well going in there last year, and it was not a good day," USM defensive coordinator Tony Pecoraro said. "We have to remember that feeling, and we have to prepare hard. At the end of the day, the outcome doesn't anything to do with anybody but us.

"Our goal, every day, is to come out there in practice and get better."

UTSA running back Jalen Rhodes, who ran for 165 yards and three touchdowns against USM last season, leads the Roadrunners with 345 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 7.5 yards a carry.

Quarterback Sturm Davis has completed 76.1 percent of his passes for 659 yards and six touchdowns and has yet to thrown an interception.

Defensively, UTSA is allowing just 86 yards a game rushing and 121 yards a game passing. The Roadrunners rank first among Football Bowl Subdivision teams against the pass, ninth against the run and second in total yardage at 207 yards a game.

"They are a physical football team, very good on offense, very good on defense," USM coach Jay Hopson said.

USM lost early leads of 14-0 and 21-7 against North Texas, as USM's defense allowed a season-high 584 total yards on 87 snaps. The Golden Eagles offense sputtered midway through the second quarter until near the end of the third quarter and then converted just one third-down opportunity in the final period.

But with memories of last week _ and last year _ vividly on their minds, offensive lineman Jerry Harris said the Golden Eagles will try and simply do what the team has done for generations.

"We're Southern Miss," Harris said. "We always have a chip on our shoulder.

"We just have to put those games behind us and move on to this next one."