USM opens second half of season at Louisiana Tech

USM opens second half of season at Louisiana Tech

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The University of Memphis. University of Louisville. University of South Florida.

All once were football opponents of the University of Southern Mississippi who gave Golden Eagle fans not only something to cheer about on game day, but someone to really pull against.

From the late 1940s through the 1980s, Louisiana Tech University arguably could have been included in that category of steadfast rivalry. The Golden Eagles and the Bulldogs met for 27 consecutive seasons from 1946 through 1972, and then played another 11 games between 1975 and 1992.

The series fell dormant for nearly two decades, but the two played home-and-home in 2010-11 and have faced each other the past four years after Tech joined Conference USA for the 2013 season.

The two will renew what is the third-longest series in USM history when the Golden Eagles (4-2, 2-1 C-USA) meet the Bulldogs (3-3, 1-1) at 6 p.m. Saturday at Joe Aillet Stadium in Ruston, La.

"(As far as rivalries), that's for the fans," USM coach Jay Hopson said. "Both teams are in the same division and both are playing for the same thing.

"For us, we know we have another good football team we have to play. That's the reality of it. That's the C-USA theme. You go in, you look at the film and you know you have another good football team to play, and Tech is a good football team."

USM will carry a two-game winning streak into the game after logging their second shutout of the season in a 24-0 victory Saturday over the University of Texas-El Paso at M.M. Roberts Stadium.

Tech, which will be coming off an open week, has alternated wins and losses this season.

The Bulldogs dropped a 23-22 decision Oct. 7 at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. Both of Tech's conference games have wound up that score, with the Bulldogs taking a 23-22 win at Western Kentucky University on Sept. 16.

Along with those two games, the Bulldogs lost a third, one-point game, falling 17-16 at the University of South Carolina on Sept. 23.

Offensively, the teams are statistically similar. USM averages 445.2 yards a game; Tech 407.2 yards a game. In passing yardage the teams are nearly identical, with USM averaging 257 yards a game and Tech 258.7 yards. The biggest difference is in the running game, where the Golden Eagles are averaging about 40 yards a game more than the Bulldogs (188.2 yards to 148.5 yards).

USM's defense also has been saltier, allowing just 313.3 yards total offense a game to Tech's 392 yards a game. The Golden Eagles have allowed 18.8 points an outing; Tech, 26.5.

"Not only can they throw the football, they can run it, too," Hopson said. "They've got weapons. They have athletes out wide, at running back and at quarterback.

"Defensively, they play good football. They have our respect on both sides of the ball."