HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - In the past four weeks, the University of Southern Mississippi has played as many football games as it has had open weeks, and one of those games featured a nearly three-hour lightning delay in mid-contest.
USM coach Jay Hopson, for one, said he and the Golden Eagles are ready to get the train rolling down the track.
“It’s been kinda weird,” Hopson said. “It’s like getting stuck in an airport. We’re just waiting for the next fight.
“But the guys are adapting well, they’ve got a good attitude and are working hard.”
The stutter-step of a season is about to pick up steam starting this weekend when USM takes to the road for its Conference USA road test.
The Golden Eagles (2-2, 1-0 C-USA) visit the University of North Texas (5-1, 1-1) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Apogee Stadium in Denton, Texas.
USM will be looking for its first win against the Mean Green since 2015 after North Texas topped the Golden Eagles 29-23 in Denton in 2016 and then rallied for a 43-28 victory in Hattiesburg last fall.
“They’re a good football team and their record indicates it,” Hopson said. “They’re 5-1.
“Last year that was a big football game and it was a game that would’ve been the difference in the (West) division. Give North Texas credit, they came in here and won the ballgame. We know we’ve got a big battle (Saturday), we know we have to be prepared, we know we have a big challenge.”
The Mean Green opened the season with four consecutive wins, averaging 48.8 points a game in victories over the Southern Methodist University, University of the Incarnate Word, University of Arkansas and Liberty University.
The last two weeks, North Texas has averaged 27 points in C-USA play, losing 29-27 to Louisiana Tech University on Sept. 29 when a last-minute field-goal attempt was blocked, and then taking a 27-24 decision at the University of Texas-El Paso.
Still, the Mean Green lead C-USA in scoring offense (41.5 points per game), passing offense (328.5 passing yards per game) and total offense (483.0 yards per game)
“They are the best offense we’ve played this year,” USM defensive coordinator Tim Billings said Monday.
USM is coming off a 24-13 loss at then No. 10 Auburn University more than a week ago.
The Golden Eagles opened the season 1-1, then had a road game with Appalachian State University cancelled because of the threat of Hurricane Florence.
After that open week, USM topped visiting Rice University before its Sept. 28 trip to Auburn.
“That was our most physical game of the year,” USM senior middle linebacker Sherrod Ruff said of the Auburn game. “But it’s conference time, and everybody’s locked in now.
“That game (Auburn) is behind us now, but our heads are high and we’re ready to go.”
North Texas place-kicker Cole Hedlund has been very good this season, knocking through 12 of his 14 field goal attempts.
An oddity: Both of his misses have come from between 40 yards and 49 yards (41 yards, 46 yards) and came in the same game, the loss to Louisiana Tech.
His 40-yarder bounced off an upright and the 46-yarder was blocked with 41 seconds to play.
Hedlund has gone 2-for-2 from 50 yards-plus, hitting a 51-yarder in the season opener against SMU and drilling a 52-yarder against UTEP this past week.
Players of the Week for the Sept. 28 game at Auburn included:
Offense _ Sophomore receiver Tim Jones, who had four catches for 38 yards, his second consecutive game with four receptions.
Defense _ Sophomore defensive end Jacques Turner, who finished with four solo tackles, including two sacks of Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham. Turner forced a fumble on one of the sacks.
Special teams _ Junior defensive tackle DeMarrio Smith, who blocked a 53-yard field goal attempt by Auburn’s Carlson Anders.
USM took over at its own 35 and marched 65 yards for its lone touchdown of the game.