HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The University of Southern Mississippi's 24-0 victory over the University of Texas-El Paso Saturday may not have been a thing of sheer beauty, but even after a weekend to consider it, USM coach Jay Hopson remained inclined to keep another win in his pocket.
"Any time you get a 'W,' that's a good thing," Hopson said Monday during his weekly news conference. "Lot of positives. There are certainly things we can work on."
USM's defense dominated, logging the first shutout by the Golden Eagles against a Football Bowl Subdivision foe since a 3-0 win over the University of Alabama-Birmingham in 2001.
"I thought we played really well on defense," Hopson said.
Offensively, USM racked up 423 yards total offense, but penalties negated at least two big plays and others helped derail potentially promising drives. The Golden Eagles also turned the ball over three times on two interceptions and a lost fumble.
But USM also had seven plays of 15 yards or more.
"Offensively, we had some explosive plays, and some of them were called back," Hopson said. "But I thought we did a good job on explosive plays."
USM (4-2, 2-1 Conference USA) will travel to Ruston, La., for a 6 p.m. kickoff with Louisiana Tech University (3-3, 1-1) at 6 p.m. Saturday.
"They're a good football team," Hopson said of Tech squad that has lost twice to Southeastern Conference opponents and had a potential, game-winning field goal blocked on the last play of the game against UAB on Oct. 7.
"I feel like this every week in Conference USA. You turn on the film and you know you have a good football team coming into town. There's a lot of parity in the league and a lot of good football teams. We need a good week of preparation and we know it will be a tough game."
Hopson said he expects to have sophomore right guard Ty Pollard back for Louisiana Tech.
Pollard, who was making his second start at guard after starting 17 consecutive games at right tackle, appeared to have injured a leg late in the third quarter and did not return against the Miners.
"We'll see," Hopson said, "but I'm kind of optimistic. I think Ty is fine. Ty will be fine.
"But I am optimistic on some guys getting back this week. Again, I want to see how Tuesday and Wednesday practice goes before I say that for sure."
USM players of the game for their performances Saturday against UTEP included:
Offense: Sophomore left tackle Drake Dorbeck, who returned from to the Golden Eagles' starting lineup on Oct. 7 and, according to USM coaches, has played at a high level the past two weeks.
"He's a guy who has come out and played really well on the offensive line," Hopson said.
USM has cracked 200 yards rushing the past two weeks and more than 420 yards each of the past two weeks.
Defense: Senior defensive tackle Draper Riley, who had four tackles (two solo), including one of the Golden Eagles' nine tackles for loss against the Miners.
"He went in there and had big (left guard Willie) Hernandez (a projected, high draft pick)," Hopson said. "He went in there and played really well up front."
UTEP netted just 17 yard rushing and 147 yards total offense.
Special teams: Junior running back Tez Parks and senior defensive back Justin Abston.
Abston recovered a muffed punt late in the second quarter that flipped field position and eventually set up a USM touchdown right before halftime.
Parks, who returned to play just two weeks ago from a lingering preseason injury, logged a tackle on punt coverage and also gained 43 yards on eight carries in a back-up role to senior Ito Smith.
"Justin had a big play on special teams on the punt and then Tez Parks did a great job covering on punts," Hopson said.