HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Perhaps Saturday's Conference USA football contest between the University of Southern Mississippi and Rice University should be dubbed the "Clinch or Snap Game."
The Golden Eagles (5-4, 3-2 C-USA) will be seeking to clinch postseason eligibility for a third consecutive season with a win when the teams tangle at 2:30 p.m. at Rice Stadium in Houston.
The Owls (1-8, 1-4) will be seeking to snap a seven-game losing streak.
While USM coach Jay Hopson continues to politely put off any conversation about bowl eligibility possibilities _ "We'll wait until the end before we count our chips." _ he was adamant that the Golden Eagles would not take the reeling Owls lightly.
"It's Conference USA play," Hopson said. "We know we have to bring our 'A' game every week.
"They're a football team that does a lot of shifting and motions on offense, a lot of misdirection. Defensively, they give you even and odd looks. They make you work on both side of the ball."
Rice also has a football team that gives up a lot of yardage and a lot points. The Owls rank last in C-USA, allowing 36.9 points a game and are allowing 427.8 yards total offense a game, including 196.1 yards rushing per game.
By contrast, USM ranks third among C-USA teams in points allowed per game (21.6), second in total defense (318 yards a game) and second in rushing defense (124 yards per game). The Golden Eagles limited the University of Tennessee to 210 yards total offense, including 95 yards rushing, in a 24-10 loss to the Volunteers in Knoxville, Tenn., last week.
"We played hard," Hopson said. "How can you not be proud of a physical, hard-fought effort? I thought that's what we did."
Junior Kwadra Griggs is expected to get the start at quarterback Saturday against the Owls. It will be his first start since injuring his left hand against North Texas University on Sept. 30.
Griggs came off the sidelines in the fourth quarter of the game at Tennessee and drove the Golden Eagles 95 yards to their only touchdown of the game.