USM Eagles hope open date has healing effect

HATTIESBURG – Southern Miss enters its open week on the heels of a convincing 41-19 win at Memphis.

Now the Golden Eagles (5-2 overall, 2-1 in Conference USA) will enjoy some much-needed time off to deal with injuries before hosting UAB on Oct. 30 at M.M. Roberts Stadium.

“We are not calling it a bye week: it is a get healthy week,” Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora said Monday during his weekly press conference. “We are still going to work this week. We are going to get some fundamental work on the things we are going to need for the stretch.

“Basically, the guys have been going for 77 straight days now and we have about 36 days left in the regular season. Right now, my main concern is getting as many guys healthy as we can and have them ready for the stretch run.”

The injury list includes Joe Duhan on the offensive line, running back Desmond Johnson as well as wide receivers Quentin Pierce and DeAndre Brown of Ocean Springs. Last week, Brown was spotted on campus on crutches with a protected boot. On Monday, he was seen on campus without crutches.

Defensively, the injury list includes C.J. Bailey, a senior cornerback from Moss Point among others.

“If we take care of our business and do what we want to do this season, then these guys are going to have to be fresh and they are going to have to play through this stretch.

“This season so far has been a true team effort because we have had so many injuries.”

The Golden Eagles rolled up a season-high 515 yards of offense against Memphis and held the Tigers to 269 yards.

The offense was highlighted by Kelvin Bolden’s 154 receiving yards, which is fourth best in C-USA this season. Bolden, a junior from Ocean Springs, also had a touchdown to go with receptions of 41 and 47 yards. He drew praise from Fedora.

“Peanut (Bolden) has all the ability in the world and we finally got the ball to him Saturday and he made plays for us,” Fedora said. “He can stretch the field because he can really run. He may be the fastest guy on the team. He is very athletic kid and its very natural to him.”

Offensively, the Golden Eagles rank No. 31 nationally in rushing (189.43) and 38th in total offense (419.86 yards).

Defensively, Southern Miss ranks No. 5 in the nation against the run (83.43 yards) and No. 12 in total defense (288.57).

But Fedora isn’t satisfied, facing a schedule that includes Tulane, Central Florida, Houston and Tulsa after the UAB game.

“I am disappointed that we are not undefeated,” Fedora said. “But I an happy that we are 5-2. If I would have known the injury situation going into the season would be what it is at this point in the season, would have probably been happy where we are right now.

“There is no doubt that against East Carolina we had many opportunities to win that football game, but we did not. All we can worry about is the next one.”

Al Jones/The Sun Herald (MCT)