BY AL JONES
The Sun Herald
HATTIESBURG – It’s been two long and demanding weeks since Southern Miss dropped a 34-27 decision to Marshall.
Following the first of two open dates, the Golden Eagles finally get a chance at redemption – while trying to get back in Conference USA contention – today against UTEP at M.M. Roberts Stadium.
Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora said his team’s entire focus is set on gaining the first conference win of the season.
If Southern Miss can make that happen, Fedora believes the Golden Eagles (2-2, 0-1) can think about catching the Thundering Herd in Conference USA.
“It is wide open,” Fedora said. “We cannot lose sight of what our goals are and continue to take care of ourselves. That is the whole emphasis right now – to worry about Southern Miss and make sure we are playing better, and taking care of the little details.
“Then we will look up and see what happens in the end. There is no reason to focus on anything other than ourselves right now.”
Fedora said the Golden Eagles have forgotten about the loss to the Thundering Herd for the first time in four games.
But the Golden Eagles have not forgotten about the key mistakes in that game, including 11 penalties.
“It is pretty much out of their mind now,” Fedora said. “The coaches have done a good job of getting that game over with. It’s a bitter taste in your mouth, but that’s a good thing because it’s a motivating factor. They can get out of bed, get after it, and practice hard.
“So they can get that bitter taste out of their mouth. They have handled it well. They were very disappointed, but they have practiced hard and I think that’s a good thing.”
Southern Miss, which has lost three straight C-USA games at home dating back to last season, will face a UTEP team that rolled past defending champion Central Florida 58-13 last week in El Paso.
UTEP picked up a deceptive 15 first downs and 119 rushing yards in the rout. But the Miners (1-3, 1-0) scored 14 defensive points while the offense had eight scoring drives of less than three minutes, including a 64-yard field goal.
Southern Miss defeated the Miners 56-30 last season.
Quarterback Trevor Vittatoe led the Miners offense with 263 passing yards and three touchdowns, including a 74-yarder to Kris Adams in the second quarter.
“We had a good week of practice last week,” Fedora said. “We have been busy.
” UTEP had a good game this week. Central Florida came to their place and they scored 58 points on them. They will be hungry when they come here. It will be a good game and we will have to get after them to be successful.”