Southern Miss working on maximizing opportunities

By David Brandt/The Assocated Press

Southern Miss’ offense has followed a troubling trend.

The Golden Eagles get plenty of yards and first downs, but when it comes time to finish the drive with a touchdown, things become much more difficult.

Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora says that has to change if Southern Miss (3-1) is going to beat Marshall (1-3) in the Conference USA opener for both teams. The Thundering Herd are off to a rough start this season, but had one of the best defenses in the league last year.

“It’s been frustrating,” Southern Miss center Cameron Zipp said. “But we can’t be making all these excuses. We just have to finish, period. We work on it every day.”

The Golden Eagles have scored on only 11 of 17 (65 percent) of their trips inside the 20-yard line, which ranks 114th out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams. They’ve scored touchdowns on only 6 of 17 (35 percent) of those opportunities.

Fedora said there’s been several plays this season that could have been touchdowns, but his team failed to make the final knockdown block that could spring a running back or receiver into the open.

“We have to be more tenacious and finish our blocks,” Fedora said. “We cannot just block them as long as we think we need to and then just let them go. We have to finish them. We have a lot of work to do in that area this week.”

The Golden Eagles are trying to overcome several injuries to their offense. Starting right tackle Jason Weaver was lost for the season last week after suffering a knee injury. Several others, including star receiver DeAndre Brown, will be playing at less than full strength if they play at all.

Even so, Marshall coach Doc Holliday said he expects Southern Miss to provide a challenge for his defense.

“Where they get you is with their tempo,” Holliday said. “They do a great job of making it hard for you to substitute on defense.”

Southern Miss has won three straight games, including a 13-12 road victory over Louisiana Tech last weekend.

But the Golden Eagles felt they left several points on the field. They ran 92 plays, gained 425 yards and dominated time of possession, yet had to settle for just one touchdown and two field goals.

“I expect them to bounce back and play at a very high level this week and do not see any reason why they won’t,” Fedora said.

After losing its first three games of the season, Marshall edged Ohio 24-23 last week for its first victory.

Holliday, who’s in his first season as coach of the Thundering Herd, is still looking for his first road win.

At times, Marshall has flashed a potent offense. Quarterback Brian Anderson has thrown for 850 yards, seven touchdowns and five interceptions.

“It is just important that our kids come out and are totally ready to play because if they don’t, we are not going to beat anyone,” Holliday said.