USM Golden Eagles try to make a turnaround against Hilltoppers

By Al Jones/Sun Herald (MCT)

HATTIEBURG — Southern Miss hasn’t hit the panic button yet.

But a quick turnaround is needed after a 24-14 home loss to East Carolina that left the Golden Eagles at 0-2.

The last time Southern Miss started 0-2 was during the 1998 season. The Golden Eagles rallied to salvage a winning season at 7-5 and a berth n the Humanitarian Bowl.

Southern Miss travels to Western Kentucky, which beat Kentucky 32-21 on Saturday. The Hilltoppers are 2-1 with their only loss of the season being a 35-0 blanking at top-ranked Alabama two weeks ago.

With games against Louisville on Sept. 29 and Boise State on Oct. 6, a 1-4 or 0-5 start is possible.

“Certainly, it is a tough situation to be in,” Southern Miss coach Ellis Johnson said. “We don’t like being 0-2, that’s for sure. I

assignment breakdown and it was totally self-inflicted. Some of it is coaching and some of it is fundamentals and execution by players.” We’ve got to have accountability as players and accountability as coaches and get right back to the drawing board.”

Two of the biggest concerns addressed by Johnson were the quarterback play and the defense.

Anthony Alford made his first start at quarterback against the Pirates before being replaced by junior Chris Campbell late in the third quarter.

Alford led the Golden Eagles to a scoring drive in the first quarter and finished the game completing 6-of-14 passes for 88 yards.

Campbell, the starter in the season-opener at Nebraska, completed 11-of-21 passes for 145 yards, including an 8-yard scoring pass to Markese Triplett in the fourth quarter.

“Anthony Alford came out and had a great drive his first drive,” Johnson said. “Chris Campbell had a great drive his first drive. After that, both of them were kind of hot and cold. It was obvious that Anthony can do some things with the ball in his hands. I think we had 12 explosive plays, five of them were runs. He was involved in every one of them. But there were too many mistakes.

“Chris, on the other hand, was much more steady but left two balls out of bounds on deep throws that we had no chance to catch and had a couple other errant throws.”

Johnson, however, didn’t announce the starter for Western Kentucky.

“What we’re going to have to do is work through practice and see who is practicing the best to see who is going to get the start,” Johnson said. “It could be (a game-time decision) but we want to see how they practice.”