Sheriff Review: Southern Miss, Cards Swim to Victory 21-17

It rained. And it rained.  And it kept raining.  The Louisville Cardinal football team literally had to scrap its game plan in a series that is well-known to have weird happenings, may have had its strangest settings due to a constant deluge of rain. The game had an announced attendance of 23,492, but many of those either elected to stay dry underneath or to leave. The few that remained were treated with another classic in the Louisville vs. Southern Miss series that never seems to disappoint regardless of roster disparity. As always, it was a throw out the records affair. Still the Cards win is the 6th in a row against the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles with the last 3 games being decided by a total of 9 points (3 points per game).

Before I get to the game itself.  I spent the week doing a tour of Florida following Louisville’s road game in Miami vs. Florida International, slowly working my way towards the panhandle and eventually Hattiesburg.  In the FIU game, the campus of Florida International was basically flooded out.  I spent the week in bright sunshine, and then gameday a full day of constant downpour in Hattiesburg.  Maybe it’s me, maybe it’s just the way this football team is going to stay under the radar, but it sure makes things interesting.

The press box at Southern Miss was a major upgrade compared to Florida International’s, but the constant rain left the Golden Eagles’ press area plagued with leaks.  Above my work area I actually had to construct a pyramid of cups to catch the water.  If you follow me on Twitter you’ll see it.  But alas, on to the game:

Game Summary

The weather played a role throughout the game. So to ignore it would just be silly.  But Southern Miss won the toss, elected to defer and the Cards came out looking like a team ready to handle its business during a period of light rain to begin the game.  The opening drive took just 7 plays as Teddy Bridgewater connected with his long lost target DeVante Parker for 29-yards on a beautiful play-action post. As beautiful as the TD pass was, the snap and hold lacked the same beauty as it was botched and the Cards would lead just 6-0.

The weather began its turn for the worse almost immediately after the Parker/Bridgewater TD.  Puddles began forming in spots and it became clear that the rain was not going to slow down, and that it was clearly affecting the game. On Southern Miss’ 3rd play from scrimmage Calvin Pryor jarred the ball loose from Desmond Johnson to give the Cards the ball in scoring position at the Southern Miss 28 yard-line. But the Cards would move themselves backwards with penalties and allowing plays behind the line of scrimmage and would eventually punt and the Golden Eagles promptly returned the favor following a 3 AND OUT.

However, the game began to get interesting when Teddy Bridgewater hit an open DeVante Parker in the hands for a simple catch, but Parker was unable to haul it in and the ball bounced up into the air for Reggie Hunt’s waiting arms as Hunt raced to the endzone for a 23-yard Pick 6.  Southern Miss would capitalize on their conversion attempt.

After Louisville’s ensuing drive was stopped short after a Scott Radcliff drop from a scrambling Teddy Bridgewater on 3rd & Long the Golden Eagles would get a field goal after a 50-yard rush from Desmond Johnson. Louisville’s tackling was becoming a problem at this point in the game, the rain was an excuse to NOT bring ball-carriers down. This had to stop or the Cards would continue to be in trouble. As it was, the Golden Eagle drive was capped off with 21-yard FG from Corey Acosta to give the Golden Eagles a 10-6 advantage.

A sack on Teddy Bridgewater on 3rd & 1 ended a nice drive and then the player I called the potential “Wild Card” in the game Kedrick Hardy broke off a HUGE gain for 44-yards basically through Hakeem Smith. Louisville’s tackling was again really suspect on this drive, but Hardy’s run was inspired. What I didn’t understand was why USM didn’t go back to Hardy more often as he finished with just 4 carries (I focus on Louisville so maybe he got dinged?). Southern Miss was happy to settle for a FG, but the Cards slid into Kicker Corey Acosta on the Slip & Slide surface that was MM Roberts Stadium making the Golden Eagles the beneficiary of a 5-yard running into the kicker penalty. With a new set of downs USM only need 11-yards to pay dirt which they quickly did for a 17-6 lead.

Southern Miss would not score after this point with 6:09 remaining in the 2nd quarter. Louisville would take the ball after a short kickoff 57 yards on 9 plays (all rushes) for an answer Touchdown with just 1:30 before halftime. This type of drive, with 3 rushes from Jeremy Wright and 6 from Senorise Perry was really the blueprint for both teams for the rest of the game. The Cards seemed to get some space and advantage moving the defense side to side trying to get some running room and with the conditions the way they were this style gave the offense more of a chance to move the ball.

In the second half, Louisville quickly forced a 3 AND OUT before a dominating possession of 15 plays for 75 yards where the Cards held the ball for 9:13 before settling for a field goal. As dominating as the possession was on paper, the Cards got some help from Southern Miss in the form of two huge 15-yard penalties (facemask & late hit on Teddy Bridgewater). Both fouls were legit, but Southern Miss had an opportunity to get off the field twice as both penalties occurred on 3rd down. Ultimately though, the drive was stalled once the Cards got themselves into the redzone when Jeremy Wright took a loss on 1st down and Teddy Bridgewater was sacked on 3rd. John Wallace booted the field goal to pull the Cards within 2 points, 17-15.

The 3rd quarter was lightning quick and the 4th quarter opened with Southern Miss attempting a 47-yard field goal from Corey Acosta. Acosta was in position for 3-points after 3 moderate gains from the Golden Eagles, but before the kick I really questioned putting a kicker out there to make a spot kick like that in a puddle. I personally thought Acosta would take the direct snap and punt the ball and the field goal formation was more to prevent a return. In fact, Louisville was in Field Goal Safe and really didn’t go after many kicks after extending Southern Miss’ drive on their previous score.

As it was Acosta did attempt the field goal and had impressive range, but his ball hit the upright squarely and bounced back onto the field of play. This was a huge play as the ball literally could have gone an inch left and possibly gone through.

The game would grind on through the rain, with both teams trading 3 AND OUTs. Eli Rogers dropped a key 3rd down, and Southern Miss’ passing game was non-existent under freshman Ricky Lloyd. Then things got interesting, Jeremy Wright looked to be getting into a good running groove after gaining 29 yards on consecutive carries. Wright followed with a nice 3rd consecutive run for 6 yards, but would lose the ball and give it back to Southern Miss.

With both teams running the football almost exclusively, the game was basically a running clock. So even though their was 10:55 to go at this point, with 3 timeouts, the game was much closer to being over than would be typical for a 2-point game. But Deiontrez Mount made an absolutely beauty of a play with a 19-yard sack on 2nd down for the Golden Eagles possession which set up a punt.

The punt was, well…….a product of the conditions. Peter Boehme was kicking out of a lake and his 6-yarder gave the Cards the ball at the 22-yard line. In the stat book it will say that Jeremy Wright and Senorise Perry carried the football, but it was really more than that. The 22-yards to the endzone was literally a group carry effort. The Running Backs, the Offensive Line, the Wide Receivers, the coaches, the sideline, even the rain. They all carried the ball for Louisville on this drive. In the end though, Senorise Perry actually did tote the rock to paydirt in a ‘will not be denied/we are not settling for a FG’ touchdown. But just for good measure, the XP was blocked which gave the Cards just a 21-17 lead with 5:27 to go.

Southern Miss had an opportunity, but without a passing game scoring was going to be tough. USM did manage to put together a drive of 13 plays for 57 yards, but after Kedrick Hardy lost 4 yards on 2nd down the drive was getting desperate. Obviously in a 4 down situation, Ricky Lloyd attempted to make 4th down more manageable with a 4 yard rush to set up 4th & 5. The play call was…….well….unconventional. But hey, I’ve seen it work. Southern Miss was beginning to get desperate as they were moving the ball, but slowly, and needed a big play to give themselves a chance to win. The halfback passback to Ricky Lloyd was snuffed out by linebacker George Durant (who should have picked it off, come on man!) and gave the Cards the ball and the win. 21-17.

Analysis

For me, Louisville’s game against Southern Miss was way more about finding the will to win than being more skilled than Southern Miss. The amount of rain that was dumped on the field at MM Roberts Stadium Saturday was something I’ve only seen one other time (2002 vs. Florida State) and the game was basically played in a shallow pond. I can’t place blame on Southern Miss’ drainage system there was just simply more water than the area could deal with.

But with the weather the game’s best player, Teddy Bridgewater, was essentially disabled as the ball was too wet and heavy to handle. Pass protection, with lineman moving backwards to protect had increased degree of difficulty and just weren’t able to give Teddy the time he needed to get the ball out. As a result, the Cards elected to go with a more straight-forward approach: Run the Football.

We can go through the stats, but in a game like this throw everything out the window. Teams can come together in conditions like this, in rallies like this one. Sure Louisville beat a winless team, but they did so in an unconventional way, riding their defense, essentially without their best player, in comeback fashion. That means something long-term and this team has had its share of lessons recently.

There were 23 passes attempted in the game between both teams, and 80 rushes. It wasn’t the 1940s the conditions were THAT bad. Bridgewater’s INT for a TD was as much to do with the weather as was Southern Miss’ 6-yard punt that gave the Cards a short field for the go-ahead score as well as the 5-yard running into the kicker penalty that allowed the Golden Eagles to trade a FG for a Touchdown. Also Louisville had 3 touchdowns in the game and converted none of the point after attempts after a botched snap/hold, a failed two-pointer, and a blocked XP. Southern Miss played a tough game, but they didn’t miss opportunities, they just didn’t really create any either. The Cards allowed 176 yards on the ground in the 1st half and after throwing out whatever excuses were in their way came out in the 2nd half and won the game behind an incredible 48 yards on 25 carries. Lastly, Louisville was 8 of 14 on 3rd Down compared to Southern Miss’ 2 of 12 on the money down…….that’s huge and a big reason why the Cards dominated the ball 34:27 to 24:38 (I have no idea where the other 5 seconds went….who cares).

I can’t really close out my review without really giving a round of applause to the Cardinal Defense. This group really hasn’t been able to find a groove all season. Teams have gone around their front 7, they’ve missed some chances to get to the QB, and just generally haven’t been able to play to their true identity. But in the 2nd half of the Southern Miss game, this group played like a driven group of men. Louisville went to a 3-3-5 with 3 big linebackers of Preston Brown, Keith Brown, and George Durant.

Also the Louisville Offensive Line…….fantastic job of keeping your head in the fight, especially when John Miller went down (he seemed OK after the game, should be fine for PITT). Kamran Joyer filled in really nicely in replacement. But this game isn’t a win without Kupper, Miller/Joyer, Benavides, Jake Smith, and Jamon Brown. Incredible focus and fight from this group, especially on a few of those late runs that gave the Cards the extra push.

All in all I’m really proud of this group. Was Southern Miss a good team? Nope, but they fought like hell when Mother Nature evened the playing field. Louisville needed a game like this, they needed a game that would test their mental focus for 4 quarters. And the Cards started rolling once they stopped focusing on the excuses and decided to just will themselves to a win. That’s football. Really good football in less than ideal conditions. This game was honest. It was just honest, brutal football.

Moving Forward

As great as it is to be 5-0 for the 7th time in school history there is still a lot of work to do. The Cards’ win Saturday closed their out of conference slate and from here on out will play conference games exclusively. Like it or not, the Cards’ conference record will determine its post-season fate. At this point Louisville is unlikely to be in the national title picture. But it isn’t out of the question with quite a bit of chaos in the polls. But at this point, Louisville shouldn’t concern itself with the big picture of College Football, it should focus solely on their Big East schedule and their next upcoming game…..Pitt in two weeks at Heinz Field.

It’s not lost on me that Louisville has been playing in terrible conditions in terms of weather all season. We had a torrential down pour leading up to the UK game, a flood outside of FIU’s stadium, and Lake Hattiesburg. So I’m a little concerned about trekking to Heinz Field where the surface is grass and potentially muddy. Obviously we are too far out for any forecast as the game is 13 days away at this point, but I think the Cards should be fully prepared to deal with adverse conditions. That is unless Bane from “The Dark Knight Rises” decides to show up again at Heinz Field in two weeks….

The Cards will let the national landscape take care of some of the remaining undefeated and ranked opponents ahead of the Cards. I’m going to be keen on #23 Washington at #2 Oregon, #4 LSU at #10 Florida, #5 Georgia at #6 South Carolina, #8 West Virginia @ #11 Texas, Miami @ #9 Notre Dame, #21 Nebraska @ #12 Ohio State, Arizona @ #18 Stanford, and of course the games that include the Big East.

While the nation lines up and puts their records on the line Louisville’s coaches will be out recruiting touting their (your) program’s unblemished record and national ranking. Also Left Guard John Miller will have some time to heal and get back onto the field, along with possibly the first look at Dominique Brown for the 2012 season. This BYE week comes at a great time, it breaks up the season from OOC to Conference and after 5 games and a lot of different conditions these guys probably are in need of a little mental break. I’m looking forward to heading to Pitt for one last home game before a 3-game home stand.

Quick Personal Note:

Rakeem Nunez-Roches’ block on Louisville’s extra point following Senorise Perry’s TD was Southern Miss’ first blocked XP since 2001 vs. Alabama, a game I also attended………

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Cats Fall, Cards Rally Quick Recaps

We’ll have complete coverage of both games, but a quick recap:

Kentucky

The Cats lost QB Max Smith early in the contest and for the 2nd straight week against a Top 25 opponent, the Cats had to scramble to find a quarterback.  They found a willing and capable back-up in Jalen Whitlow who was effective early and led the Cats into halftime with a 17-7 lead.  But the #6 South Carolina Gamecocks found their stride in the 3rd quarter scoring on all 3 possessions, and the Cats failed to answer any of those scores.

Kentucky showed a lot of fight in this one, in front of an announced crowd of just 49,810.  The light crowd was energized by some really enthusiastic play from the Cats, but in the end the Gamecocks asserted themselves with their defense and Marcus Lattimore on the ground who carried for 120 yards and 2 TDs on 23 carries.

Kentucky moves to 1-4 on the season and faces another ranked opponent in Mississippi State next week.

Louisville

The Cards had to rally against a tough opponent in Southern Miss & Mother Nature.  A driving downpour dropped over 6 inches of rain onto the playing surface of MM Roberts stadium and it made both offenses one dimensional.  The best player on the field (Teddy Bridgewater) was neutralized and the Cardinal offense was visibly frustrated during the first half.  But at halftime the coaches and players scrapped their original game plan and literally willed themselves to a victory.

With Bridgewater attempting just 13 passes, the Cardinal rushing game took advantage of a crucial special teams mistake on a botched punt that gave the Cards the ball on their own 22.  Senorise Perry gave the Cards the go-ahead lead with a 14-yard rush on 3rd down to push the lead to 21-17.  Perry would finish with 118 yards on 22 carries and 2 TDs, while Jeremy Wright finished with 84 yards on 20 carries.  Wright did have a costly fumble on a drive where Louisville was moving the ball.

Stay tuned for more in-depth Game Recaps

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Wildcats Host #6 South Carolina: PREVIEW

The University of Kentucky comes into Saturday’s game riding a wave of bad vibes after starting the season 1-3.  Last week, QB Max Smith was a late scratch to the lineup and in his replacement Morgan Newton struggled to find a suitable form as he finished just 7 of 21 for 48 yards and 3 INTs.  Newton actually gave up more INT return yardage than he had passing yards for Kentucky receivers.  For whatever reason, the Cats seem to struggle against the Florida Gators…….and the same is true against Steve Spurrier.

The Wildcats actually knocked off Steve Spurrier in 2010 31-28 in Commonwealth Stadium when the Gamecocks were ranked #10. But that win was followed by a 54-3 thrashing last season when the Cats were outgained 639-96 in what was one of the more dominant and deflating performances in recent memory for UK.  This season the Cats are desperate for a win after losing 3 out of their first 4 games and should get Max Smith back to action.  Unfortunately, the Gamecocks have Connor Shaw and Marcus Lattimore behind a tremendous defense.

South Carolina is 15-7-1 all-time versus Kentucky and is 8-4 in Lexington. Kentucky should be able to move the ball better this week with Max Smith at Quarterback, but I think this sets up to be a tough day for the Wildcats.  Here is a statistical comparison:

Kentucky South Carolina
Strength of Schedule (Congrove) 5th 20th
Scoring Offense (ppg) 23.0 (94th) 36.3 (30th)
Total Offense (ypg) 376.0 (85th) 424.3 (55th)
Passing Offense (ypg) 256.5 (43rd) 259.5 (41st)
Rushing Offense (ypg) 119.5 (99th) 164.75 (65th)
Scoring Defense (ppg) 29.0 (84th) 9.8 (5th)
Total Defense (ypg) 401.5 (77th) 300.3 (19th)
Passing Defense (ypg) 209.3 (46th) 233.3 (73rd)
Rushing Defense (ypg) 192.25 (101st) 67.0 (8th)
First Downs (per game) 22.3 (45th) 20.3 (45th)
Opponent First Downs (per game) 23.5 (100th) 15.3 (14th)
Turnover Margin (season) -5 (111th) +1 (50th)
Time of Possession 23:30.0 (123rd) 29:09.5 (79th)
Sacks (per game) 2.50 (34th) 3.75 (7th)
Sacks Allowed (per game) 1.0 (26th) 2.50 (95th)
Tackles for Loss (per game) 4.75 (95th) 7.5 (23rd)
Tackles for Loss Allowed (per game) 3.75 (18th) 5.25 (56th)
Interceptions (season) 2 (70th) 5 (24th)
Passes Defended (per game) 3.0 (104th) 4.50 (56th)
Fumbles Recovered (season) 2 (77th) 3 (48th)
Fumbles Forced (season) 5 (22nd) 3 (65th)
Fumbles Lost (season) 2 (29th) 5 (96th)
3rd Down Conversions (%) 44.64% (42nd) 45.10 (36th)
Opponent 3rd Down Conversions (%) 53.97 (118th) 23.73% (7th)
Red Zone Conversions (%) 72.73% (97th) 75.0% (92nd)
Opponent Red Zone Conversions (%) 82.35% (76th) 62.5% (11th)
Field Goal % 33.33% (115th) 66.7% (71st)
Opponent Field Goal % 50% (18th) 75% (65th)
Punt Returns (ypr) 7.63 (69th) 16.00 (21st)
Kickoff Returns (ypr) 26.0 (27th) 29.00 (8th)
Opponent Punt Returns (ypr) 5.2 (45th) 5.67 (48th)
Opponent Kickoff Returns (ypr) 23.50 (93rd) 22.92 (90th)
Punting (ypp) 43.38 (31st) 38.44 (107th)
Kickoffs (ypk) 63.0 (39th) 59.04 (106th)
Penalties (ypg) 36.8 (21st) 35.8 (15th)

Southern_Mississippi_Golden_Eagles
Sheriff Preview: Southern Miss 2012

Louisville and Southern Miss have a rich history between the two programs having played 29 times.  The Golden Eagles hold an 18-10-1 advantage in the series, and the Cards are just 3-12 in Hattiesburg, and 3-9 in MM Roberts Stadium.  From 1949-1952 the series was played at USM’s Faulkner Field (which is now M.M. Roberts Stadium “The Rock”) and duPont Manual Stadium. The rivalry was really born during the 1978-2002 era when the series was uninterrupted, (except in 1992 & 1994) until the Cards joined the Big East Conference in 2005.  Southern Miss leads the series thanks to the period from 1982 to 1999 when USM beat the Cards 14 of 16 times, and as a result the Golden Eagles have outscored the Cardinals 834-541 during the 29 game series.

But despite that long period of success for Southern Miss over Louisville, the Cards have won the last 5 meetings and the last 3 contests have been really exciting.  The Last 3 times these teams met the game has been decided by 3 points (2002), 2 points (2009), and 3 points in 2010.  Don’t forget some of the classic moments like “Mills Kills” and “Favre’s Hail Mary”, and the fact that the 1990 game was the only Loss that those Louisville Cardinals suffered while en route to winning the 1991 Fiesta Bowl.

Last Meeting

The last time these two teams met was in the 2010 Beef O’Brady’s Bowl and the rivalry produced a new chapter as Louisville and Southern Miss nearly came to blows during a Pre-Game Dance Off at the “Beach Bash”.  Florida Highway Patrol Officers responded to the event, which ended 90 minutes early.  But the game produced more fireworks than any pre-game activities.  The 2010 Cardinals were a surprise bowl participant after missing out the previous 3 seasons and the game was a back and forth affair with Southern Miss taking an early 14-0 lead in the 1st quarter.  Doug Beaumont fumbled the ball at the 3, taking away a scoring opportunity after a Southern Miss botched punt attempt.

The Cards found some life in the 2nd quarter and traded scores with the Golden Eagles for 3 straight possessions until Johnny Patrick (Saints) made a huge play play on Tight End Johdrick Morris (who was recently cut by the Ravens) to force a fumble.  That fumble and recovery gave the Cards a short field to tie the game 21-21 at halftime.

The 3rd quarter was eventful, but ended without a score from either team.  But Johnny Patrick made another terrific play when he blocked a 29-yard Field Goal attempt to keep points off the board.  The 4th quarter began with USM capping off a 95-yard 11-pay drive with a TD to take a 28-21 lead.  The drive was extended twice on 4th down after a fake punt and a UofL offside penalty.  Louisville freshman Jeremy Wright took the ensuing kick-off 95 yards on his own to tie the game again at 28-28.

After a USM punt, the Cards drove 68 yards on 12-plays to set up a Chris Philpott 36-yard FG to take the lead for the first time.  USM would go 3 AND OUT and gave the ball back to the Cards where the Cards would burn up 4:34 of the remaining 4:41 in the game before giving the ball back to Southern Miss at their own 2, game over.  It was the first time Cardinal fans were treated to Fist-Pumping Charlie Strong and fans who made the trip to Tropicana Field gave the 2010 team a well-deserved ovation.  Johnny Patrick was awesome in this game, and the Golden Eagles beat the Cards in every category except the scoreboard.  The game really was the first time that fans allowed themselves to believe that the football program was headed in the right direction.  Highlights from CrumsRevenge are below:

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl: UofL 31, USM 28 from @CrumsRevenge on Vimeo.

Statistical Comparison

Louisville Southern Miss
Strength of Schedule (Congrove) 67th 58th
Scoring Offense (ppg) 33.5 (47th) 17.0 (115th)
Total Offense (ypg) 431.5 (44th) 282.7 (118th)
Passing Offense (ypg) 266.0 (39th) 136.3 (120th)
Rushing Offense (ypg) 165.5 (63rd) 146.33 (84th)
Scoring Defense (ppg) 19.0 (39th) 38.3 (116th)
Total Defense (ypg) 339.5 (43rd) 473.3 (106th)
Passing Defense (ypg) 247.8 (91st) 238.7 (78th)
Rushing Defense (ypg) 91.75 (16th) 234.67 (114th)
First Downs (per game) 24.8 (26th) 18.7 (95th)
Opponent First Downs (per game) 19.0 (55th) 23.7 (103rd)
Turnover Margin (season) +3 (34th) -4 (108th)
Time of Possession 34:32.0 (10th) 27:31.00 (102nd)
Sacks (per game) 1.0 (104th) 1.33 (87th)
Sacks Allowed (per game) 1.75 (62nd) 3.00 (108th)
Tackles for Loss (per game) 3.00 (121st) 4.67 (99th)
Tackles for Loss Allowed (per game) 4.50 (31st) 9.33 (124th-last)
Interceptions (season) 2 (70th) 1 (102nd)
Passes Defended (per game) 4.25 (64th) 2.67 (117th)
Fumbles Recovered (season) 5 (13th) 0 (124th-last)
Fumbles Forced (season) 4 (38th) 0 (124th-last)
Fumbles Lost (season) 2 (29th) 4 (77th)
3rd Down Conversions (%) 55.56% (7th) 37.5% (85th)
Opponent 3rd Down Conversions (%) 46.81% (103rd) 58.14% (122nd)
Red Zone Conversions (%) 95% (14th) 62.5% (115th)
Opponent Red Zone Conversions (%) 69.23% (23rd) 80% (55th)
Field Goal % 100% (1st) 75% (55th)
Opponent Field Goal % 0% (1st) 25% (7th)
Punt Returns (ypr) 7.14 (71st) 19.0 (12th)
Kickoff Returns (ypr) 18.75 (91st) 32.30 (4th)
Opponent Punt Returns (ypr) 4.86 (41st) 8.80 (79th)
Opponent Kickoff Returns (ypr) 24.41 (102nd) 23.83 (99th)
Punting (ypp) 39.25 (101st) 40.78 (78th)
Kickoffs (ypk) 61.23 (87th) 57.92 (117th)
Penalties (ypg) 56.8 (72nd) 49.7 (52nd)

Louisville Offense vs. Southern Miss Defense 

The Louisville offense will be facing a 3-3-5 base attack that really hasn’t slowed any one down while allowing 38.3 points per game and 473.3 yards per game through 3 games of the 2012 season. What is surprising about those numbers is that the Golden Eagles second game of the season they actually held East Carolina to just 228 yards in a losing performance. So the other two games were offensive explosions as Nebraska gained 632 yards, and Western Kentucky gained 560 yards.  It’s important to note, that both of the games where the USM defense didn’t show up were on the road.  And that the East Carolina game was in Hattiesburg.  But if place plays such a huge reversal in fortunes for the Southern Miss defense, then the Golden Eagles probably have more problems than stats could uncover.

The USM Defense starts up front with their 3 main Defensive Lineman.  DT: Rakeem Nunez-Roches (6-3, 312, Soph), Nose: Khyri Thornton (6-3, 283, Jr.) & DE: Michael Smith (6-5, 249, r-Fr.).  These 3 have not been really productive in terms of targeting ball-carriers and they have just 3.0 TFLs in their 25 collective tackles during the 2012 season.  Thornton, however, does have an INT to his credit.

Bandit: Jamie Collins (6-4, 239, Sr.) is a busy man patrolling the field behind his D-line.  Collins is Southern Miss’ best defensive player by far with 27 tackles, 6.5 TFLs, and 2 sacks. The Louisville offensive line is likely to key on Collins, but Collins will have some help in the form of MLB: Alan Howze (6-2, 219, Jr.) & WLB: Dylan Reda (6-3, 235, Jr.). Together Howze and Reda have combined for 33 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, and 1 sack.  The Southern Miss Linebacking crew does a decent job, but they really need their D-line to lighten the load if they hope to make any head way into stopping the run.  In 2012, the Golden Eagles have allowed 234.67 yards per game on the ground.  USM also lost promising freshman LB Lelland Ducksworth with a knee injury for the season.

Safety Jacorius Cotton (5-9, 190, Jr.) is second on the team in tackles behind Jamie Collins with 20 tackles.  Cotton has done nothing other than bring ball carriers down and is generally the last line of defense.  His 20 tackles indicates a lot of big plays.  Behind Cotton in the defensive production department is CB  Deron Wilson (5-10, 175, r-Jr.) who has 19 takedowns and 2 PBUs on the season.  FS: Martez Thompson (6-0, 201, Sr.) has found 16 ball carriers to bring down  followed by Jerrion Johnson (6-1, 195, Jr.) from the “Spur” position.  Lastly, CB: Reggie Hunt (5-8, 182, Sr.) hasn’t really factored at all as a starter. The Golden Eagles will be without Senior leader Marcal Robinson who had seen action in 35 games throughout his career.

Punter Peter Boehme currently averages a nice 41 yards per punt, but the coverage hasn’t been great as USM gives up an average of 8.8 yards per return.

The more I research the Southern Miss defense, the more discouraged I get that this will be a good game.  If I’m being honest, and if you read me often you know I always try to be as honest as possible, the Golden Eagles are just lacking play-makers on defense and it feels sort of like a rag-tag unit.  There are some good pieces here, but there are also some band-aids too.  Louisville has shown it can be balanced and despite last week’s distracted performance the Cards still managed to win and gain 323 yards almost by accident.

Louisville’s offense turned in their worst performance of 2012 last week as at least 8 balls were dropped in the passing game that would have added to the yardage and given the Cards more first downs.  Also for the first time in 2012 the Teddy Bridgewater looked human.  Maybe it was Miami, maybe it was the first road game, or the rain, or the lack of a crowd/environment at Florida International.  Whatever the case may be, the symptom is a clear prognosis of a continued lack of maturity on this football team.  It’s sort of like the “Cheez-It” commercials at this point, where the team knows exactly what it needs to do to become great but makes a conscious decision to not do those things.

Against Southern Miss Louisville should be balanced enough to move the ball down the field and get scores before their bye week.  I’m looking for a nice rushing performance and for the Offensive Line to really assert their will against the front 6 of USM.  After 4 games the O-Line and running backs are probably feeling some fatigue and wear so I’d like to see a little Corvin Lamb (I don’t think we see Dominique Brown until league play) to keep Senorise Perry and Jeremy Wright fresh and healthy.

Also, I expect to see the Teddy Bridgewater that we think we know.  Being in Mississippi there should be fewer distractions, but the Cards do have some players from the Florida Panhandle who will have an opportunity to play in front of friends and family that they normally wouldn’t be able to.  But I don’t think that plays as much of a factor as last week.  I’m also looking for beautiful weather, and I don’t have much faith in Southern MIss’ DBs through 3 games.  Bridgewater will be the best QB they’ve faced this season.  I’m looking for big offensive numbers this week.

Punter: Peter Boehme

Southern Miss Offense vs. Louisville Defense

After being a top offensive team in 2011, the Southern Miss Defense has really struggled after losing much of their starting unit and Larry Fedora. The Golden Eagles have peaked at just 20 points in a game vs. Nebraska.  Their ‘best’ offensive performance came at home against East Carolina where they tallied just 324 yards.  The Golden Eagles main problem is the lack of a starting QB returning from 2011.  As a result Head Coach Ellis Johnson and OC Steve Buckley have played 3 different quarterbacks, and started 2 different ones through 3 games trying to find the right answer.  QBs Chris Campbell and Anthony Alford BOTH left the Western Kentucky game with injuries and if neither can start RS-FR Ricky Lloyd (6-2, 198) will get his first career start.

We will continue to monitor the situation, but Chris Campbell was having an “OK” season after starting 2 games and connecting on 19 or 37 passing attempts for 229 yards and 2 TDs/0 INTs.  Campbell also had 35 rushing yards through 3 games as well, but left the Western Kentucky game was a ‘stinger’ in his neck.

QB Anthony Alford (6-0, 210, Fr.) got his 1st career start vs. ECU and was the first true freshman to start at QB for Southern Miss since 2003. Alford is a TRUE athlete and was a 4-star football recruit coming out of high school last season.  Alford scared several programs away as he was contemplating playing professional baseball after being taken in the 3rd round of the MLB Draft for the Toronto Blue Jays.  Alford is so highly regarded that Southern Miss hired Alford’s High School coach (Steve Buckley) as Offensive Coordinator.   Campbell replaced Alford after fumbling twice in his first career start against East Carolina, and left the Western Kentucky game with a knee injury.

Campbell is more balanced, whereas Alford is definitely not scaring anyone with his arm.  Alford is a threat to run the football and has not shown the ability to be accurate at all completing just 34.6% of his passes.  But Alford’s value comes from his feet where he actually leads the Golden Eagles in attempts and yards gained, but his -69 yards don’t give him the edge in net rushing yardage. Ricky Lloyd battled hard in the pre-season for the #1 job, but has attempted just 8 passes in 2012, completing 4 for 72 yards and a TD (46 yards to Dominique Sullivan). Lloyd also has 10 carries in limited playing time, so it’s clear that USM wants to run their QB, but I’d be surprised if they continue to do that down to their 3rd string after 3 games.

At running back the Golden Eagles really use two guys for the most part. Desmond Johnson (5-11, 200, r-Sr.) & Jeremy Hester (5-6, 180, Jr.) Johnson is decidedly the #1 back but has just 31 attempts through 3 games.  Hester has just 14 attempts.  USM’s running QB style takes up quite a bit of the rushes from the RBs, but also their inability to convert 3rd down and their Time of Possession numbers really limit the touches.  However, possibly down to the 3rd string QB I’d expect a change of philosophy so that the Golden Eagles don’t need to turn to their #4 QB (whoever that is). Both running backs will catch an occasional pass, but they don’t have the screen game like UNC & FIU employed the last few weeks.

The wildcard possibly at Running Back is Kedrick Hardy (6-0, 222, Jr.) who has had some diminished returns after a stellar freshman season (903 yards, 6.5 yards per carry).  Last year Hardy injured his shoulder during his sophomore campaign that was nearly as productive and returned to his first action against East Carolina since his injury, but has just 4 carries for 17 yards in 2012 as he continues to return to form.

The lack off offense is surprising when you consider the experience that returns on the USM offensive line.  The Golden Eagles currently boast 91 starts from the unit, including 4 returnees from an offense that generated nearly 6500 yards in 2011.  LT Jason Weaver (6-5, 302, r-Sr) received a 6th year after getting injured in the first game of 2010, LG Joe Duhon (6-2, 292 r-Sr.) is on a streak of 22 consecutive starts, C Austin Quattrochi (6-3, 292 r-Sr.) has started 16 in a row and is also a Rimington Trophy Watch List player,  RT Darius Barnes (6-4, 329, r-Sr.) has started 15 in a row. Right Guard Ed Preston (6-4, 307, r-Jr.) is the lone newcomer to the starting unit.  This group did a lot of good work last season, so what is happening right now to the Golden Eagle offense is surprising.

As few rushes the running backs get, it’s shocking how little receptions there are to go around for Southern Miss as well. Right now the Golden Eagles have just 32 receptions through 3 games AS A TEAM!   Tight End Markese Triplett (6-4, 223, Jr.) and WR Tracy Lampley (5-9, 168, Sr.) both lead the team with 5 receptions each, and a collective total of 157 yards and 1 TDs.  Lampley is on USM’s Career All-Purpose Yardage list and is a DANGEROUS Punt & Kick Returner.  Lampley’s ability should scare Card fans are Louisville has really looked sub-par covering kicks thus far in 2012.  I’d kick the ball out of the back of the endzone. Punt Coverage has been less of an issue.

The only other WR I’m really concerned with is WR: Dominique Sullivan (6-4, 208, Jr.), as he has the size and ability to cause problems.  But in the end someone has to throw him the ball for him to be a threat.

Kicker Corey Acosta is 3 of 4 on the season and has two makes from the 40-49 range.

My Prediction

Larry Fedora is out, Ellis Johnson is in. Johnson spent the last 4 years as South Carolina’s Defensive Coordinator and the Southern Miss post is his first crack at a Head Coaching position at the FBS level.  Previously Johnson was the Head Man at The Citadel, Gardner-Webb, and Spartanburg H.S. (SC). Thus far the Golden Eagles have had very little success on either side of the ball.  Losing Larry Fedora and a boatload of starters will do that, but at some point this Golden Eagle team will need to find an identity.

I expect that Anthony Alford will play, but I’m really curious to see how involved he can be coming off the knee injury.  If he’s healthy, he’s one of the best athletes on the field and can create plays but is also largely one-dimensional.  Southern Miss hasn’t looked very good on offense all season, and will have to rely on the big play to keep pace with Louisville in this ballgame.  If Southern Miss starts maintaining drives, then watch out!  But more than likely this will be a team that gets desperate and starts making mistakes.

The School’s Administration has organized a “black out” for this game, but after an 0-3
 start it’s tough to expect that the fans are fully behind this team. Especially considering that USM was 12-2 last season.  After losing much of that team including the former coaching staff Southern Miss is starting over in a place that really cares about football.  I’ve always hated that Southern Miss really never got any respect on a national level, and that disrespect they’ve been shown over the years really has developed an anti-establishment attitude (which I like) in Hattiesburg towards others in Major College Football.  At Southern Miss it really is ‘us against the world’.  Also the battles that Louisville and Southern Miss have shared over the years have been outstanding and I don’t expect the fans to have forgotten that.  So even though the Golden Eagles are 0-3 and the Cards are 4-0 and nationally ranked I expect an enthusiastic crowd.

Unfortunately I also expect that the Louisville offense really asserts their will over an out-matched opponent.  With the way WKU and Nebraska were able to run the ball and the way I’ve seen Louisville run the ball so far this year I think this game is dominated on the ground and then Teddy Bridgewater takes advantage of the vulnerable secondary for a few deep plays.  But……………..

Last week I predicted 45-3….so what in the hell do I know?  This Louisville team hasn’t put together 4 quarters of football yet this season.  Can I expect this team to finally put together a solid and complete performance?  Nope.  Not coming into the 5th game of the season, a week before a bye, during the 2nd of a 3 game road stretch, and the last out of conference game of the season.  Whatever I predict the game will be the opposite, this Cardinal team doesn’t seem interested in realizing their true potential:  Louisville 38 Southern Miss 10

Note: It’s important to remember Louisville’s slow starts under Charlie Strong. In 2010 the Cards really didn’t get to playing good football until Week 5.  In 2011, a really young team didn’t get going until Week 6 or 7 (arguably).

Attending, Watching, Listening

-The Game begins at 8:00 EST/7:00 CST and will be broadcast on the CBS Sports Network. Check with your television provider to make sure you have that package.

-USM/Louisville will also be broadcast in radio.  Listen in on the Southern Miss IMG Network which looks like the best signal in Hattiesburg will be 104.5 FM WXRR.  In Louisville you can listen as usual on 840 WHAS/790 WKRD.

-Tickets are available on StubHub for as little as $10, but there are pick your own seat options through the University Ticket Office Website.

 

Joker Phillips Press Conference Transcript Pre-South Carolina

COACH PHILLIPS:  Our injured situation here:  I’ll give you some doubtfuls and some questionables.  Cobble is doubtful.  Correll, Forrest, Aumiller.  Questionable:  CoShik; Kevin Mitchell; Maxwell Smith, be day‑to‑day.  We’ll make a decision (later in the week).  Lowery and Cartier Rice.

Got another tough opponent.  Number six team in the country.  Defensively, third in our conference in defense, rushing defense giving up 67 yards a game; fourth in total defense, second in sacks, second in scoring defense, less than ten points a game and Clowney leads them with four‑and‑a‑half sacks this year.

And talk about Clowney, I think one of the things the NCAA should do is issue every team two of those type of guys, to make everything even.  I would like to have Clowney and Taylor is what they should issue everybody. (laughs)

Offensively, passing, they’re fourth in the league at 259 yards.  Lattimore is averaging 4.6, one of the best running backs in the country.  And Shaw has completed 76 percent of his passes, including 20 of those (in a row) last week.  So gotta get pressure on him and gotta make sure we challenge the receiver.

Special forces:  Ace Sanders is one of the most dangerous guys I’ve ever seen in punt returns.  They haven’t had a lot of kickoff return opportunities, and they’re one of the least penalized teams in our conference.  They overtook us.  Last week we had seven, and we were one of the least penalized teams; and now we are second behind South Carolina.

So another huge challenge for us.  Got them at home.  We’re excited to be back home in front of our fans.  Questions?

Q.  When do you anticipate you’ll be able to make a decision on Max?

COACH PHILLIPS:  Again, day to day.  He’s a lot further along on Sunday than he was last Sunday, obviously.  A lot of it had to do with us not playing him this week.  We would have had some risks in playing him, so we decided not to (play him) to give us a chance to make a decision for this week.

Q.  A lot of people said last year Peyton Manning might be the MVP because of just how valuable he proved to be when he was out, how much the team struggled without him.  Did you see a little bit of that Saturday?

COACH PHILLIPS:  We did.  We saw some of that with Max, but we expect the next guy to go in and get it done.  We just didn’t.  Max is very valuable.

Anytime you lose your starting quarterback, he’s your starting quarterback for a reason.  He’s not the starting quarterback because he (undecipherable) quarterback.  He’s starting quarterback because he’s your best quarterback.

And we’ve had to make decisions on who our starting quarterback is at the start of the season three seasons, and every year we started it was the right decision.  And it was the right decision with Max.  He’s our starter, and you lose your starter, you do lose a valuable person in your offense.

Q.  Will you rethink how you will prep your No. 2 quarterback this week because Max may not be able to go versus last week?

COACH PHILLIPS:  We’ve been prepping Jalen to be our Number 2 since the Louisville game.  We worked Morgan to be the Number 2 going up to the Louisville game, but after the Louisville game we started prepping Jalen to be our Number 2.  When Max went down, we just felt like he (Jalen) wasn’t ready, wasn’t quite ready to go in in that type of environment.

I’ve been down there when we put a freshman quarterback in there, and it’s pretty tough.  And we just felt like we wanted to start Morgan.  And we did.  Didn’t work out.  Didn’t play as well as we would have liked.  But we still think that that was the right decision.

Q.  If the game was at Commonwealth, would Jalen have started?

COACH PHILLIPS:  Who knows.  Again, still ‑‑ this is not just the environment. It’s the team that you’re playing against also.  It’s a really good football team defensively.  So who knows.

Q.  Did you just feel like you had one hand tied behind your back in that game?

COACH PHILLIPS:  No.  I mean I didn’t feel that way.  I just feel like we just couldn’t make a play.  All we needed was a play here, play there.  We had a couple of guys running open.  We also missed some cuts, missed some blocks on the perimeter that would have given us a chance after we did catch the ball.  But I don’t feel like we had our hands tied behind our back.

Q.  Did you rethink at all Patrick Towles as one of the starters?

COACH PHILLIPS:  You know, I’m comfortable with where we’re at, because I think we’ll get Max back.  That’s our feeling, that we’ll get Max back.

Again, we decided to allow Jalen to be our third, and we really think that Pat Towles will be a really good quarterback in time, and we just think that this is the best thing for him and for our program at this point.

Q.  What’s the diagnosis on Max’s shoulder?

COACH PHILLIPS:  He just reaggravated an old injury from last year.  So it was a deal where if he’d gotten hurt, ‑‑ if you’d have seen him in warmups, he wasn’t 100 percent and if he’d have gotten hurt, they think he could have been out for a significant time, and it wasn’t worth risking.  It wasn’t worth risking, like I said on Saturday.  I was treating him like he was ‑‑ you guys would want your son to be treated.

Q.  What exactly was the old injury that he re-aggravated?

COACH PHILLIPS:  His shoulder.  He had a sprained shoulder, AC joint from last year.

Q.  Could you describe Cobble’s injury?

COACH PHILLIPS:  If you saw the last series, Mister Cobble in the last series of the Western game the guy who sprinted from back side to knock the quarterback out when we missed the tackle coming off the back side.  And after the game he had played really hard in that game, did a really good job, but after the game he had some flu‑like symptoms, some infection set in, they think in some of his joints.  They think it might have set in first in his wrist, moved to his leg.  And you know, so we admitted him to try to cure some of the infection that they thought he had.

Q.  Is he still in the hospital?

COACH PHILLIPS:  No, he’s not.  He’s out.  He feels a lot better, but again, for a few days he hasn’t eaten anything.  Just gotta make sure he gets his strength back.  He’s a day‑to‑day guy also.  We don’t know exactly when he’ll practice or if he’ll practice this week.

Q.  So they got the infection under control

COACH PHILLIPS:  They did.

Q.  Matt Smith said that South Carolina’s defensive front is as tough to play against as anybody’s … Why is that?

COACH PHILLIPS:  It’s speed, power, length.  I mean they got guys inside that do a really good job of pushing, pushing the pocket.  They got two 6′ 6 guys on the edges that are really good speed rushers, and they do a really good job in coverage also.  So just overall, again, giving up 67 yards rushing in four games, pretty dang good.  And you know, they’ve given up a little over 200 yards in the passing game, but a lot of that’s near the end of the game.

Q.  Do they move people around a lot and make it complex or simple things?

COACH PHILLIPS:  It’s been really, really simple.  This is probably as simple of South Carolina team that we’ve seen.  Why would you?  If you got front four like these guys do, you don’t have to.  They get pressure on the quarterback.  They’re second in sacks, and that’s just with their front four.  Why would you?  As simple as you possibly can and stop people from rushing or stop people from running the ball.

Q.  Before the season you were as comfortable with Craig McIntosh at kicker more than any other position on the roster … Has your confidence changed or what has been the reason for his misses. I know they were long attempts.

COACH PHILLIPS:  It’s not us having confidence in him.  Again, we’ve been right on him.  It seems like the teams that we’ve had a chance to kick the ball, it’s been around 42‑plus.  It hasn’t been anything under 40 that we’ve had an opportunity to kick.  So it’s been really tough kicks for him.  We haven’t lost confidence in him, and just me talking to him on Saturday after the game, he hasn’t lost confidence.  He’s rearing and willing to go out there and kick.

And again, I told him this year he’s going to have to go in and kick field goals to help us win.  I really believe that.  So we have a lot of belief in him and he has a lot of belief in himself.

Q.  He hasn’t missed by much though has he …

COACH PHILLIPS:  Very little.  There’s the game of those little inches.  You know, the 50‑something‑yarder the other day was really close.  All the other ones have been really close also because they can get you points.

Q.  Matt Smith thing about the South Carolina loss last year, that it was the worst loss he can remember as a player.  It still kind of sticks with him.  Does it stick with you, too?

COACH PHILLIPS:  All of them stick with you.  You never lose that feeling.  So all of them stick with you.  It’s just one of them.

Q.  Spurrier comes out at the end and says you guys have a good punter …

COACH PHILLIPS:  We got good a punter this year, too.  (Laughs).

Q.  Do you put that on your bulletin board?

COACH PHILLIPS:  No.  Steve’s going to say things like that.  If I put everything that Steve said up there, we wouldn’t have any space on our board.  So no, it doesn’t. (laughs)

Q.  If for whatever reason Max couldn’t go, do you know at this point if you would go with Morgan or Jalen?

COACH PHILLIPS:  No, don’t know at this point.  But probably Jalen.  I don’t know exactly if we go with Morgan or Jalen.  But I think Jalen would probably deserve based on the way we performed Saturday.  But again, we’ve gotta go through this week and see how everything works out.

Q.  How do you evaluate Max in terms of even day to day?

COACH PHILLIPS:  Again, we gotta evaluate ‑‑ we will not throw on Tuesday.  We’ll see how well he performs on Wednesday and Thursday.  Then make the decision based on that.

Q.  How do you go about getting Jalen enough reps to feel comfortable?

COACH PHILLIPS:  He’s getting the two reps.  And again, we still gotta get Max the one reps.  He can hand the ball off.  So we still gotta get Max ready.  So it’s hard to give either one of the guys 100 percent of the one reps.  So we’ve gotta get him all of the two reps and some of the one reps.  But we also have to get Max some of the reps.  He can hand the ball off; he can make some of the checks in the pass game, but not throw the football.  So there’s a lot of things that we still have to do with him, in case he is the guy on Saturday.

Q.  Do you need to get him more reps in games?

COACH PHILLIPS:  It is, yeah.  We haven’t had an opportunity until this past game, and he got a few, not nearly enough.  Not enough to make a difference.

Q.  Is Max the kind of person you have to hold out for his own good?

COACH PHILLIPS:  Yeah.  He wanted to play.  He’s a competitor.  You know, I get that. But again, we just thought it was the best thing for him and for this football program.

Q.  How you feel like Cody Quinn held up?

COACH PHILLIPS:  Really good.  He played as well as any freshman I’ve ever been around.  The guy challenged receivers, made a huge play in the first series.  He drove on a quick screen that he took on a blocker and ran through the blocker and made the play.

We’re excited about him.  And all three of those true freshmen that played out there on the perimeter.  It’s not an easy place to play in this league as a true freshman.  And those guys, I thought those guys held up well, especially him.

Q.  Coach, could you talk about Connor Shaw’s development?

COACH PHILLIPS:  He’s a tough guy.  I think last year may have been his really first true start against us last year, and they did some things.  They kind of tweaked their offense that week against us, and you see a lot of the same things that they did against us last year they’re doing this year.

But the guy is really accurate.  He actually ran ‑‑ you guys may not get the highlights of it because he was called back, an 80‑yard touchdown run last week against Missouri, an SEC opponent that the quarterback outran for 80 yards.  So he’s a guy that can run the football.  He’s really accurate.  He’s a coach’s son, so he’s like a coach on the field.  He’s a challenge for us.

Q.  Re: Marcus Lattimore. What does he do for them?

COACH PHILLIPS:  Big physical back that always falling forward.  He protects the football.  He’s done a really good job of protecting the football, and he catches the ball well out of the backfield.

Q.  Your offensive line you didn’t know what to expect I think in the beginning.  Against this South Carolina defense do you feel better going in there with them?

COACH PHILLIPS:  Feel better.  Last week I thought that this was the best defensive front that we had played against.  And our guys rushed for right at 160 yards and we really outrushed them to the fourth quarter when we put some of our backups in.  I think they had rushed for 120‑something yards.  So I feel really good.

I thought this offensive line did as good as any we’ve been around against the Florida team because we ran the ball for five yards a carry.  And they protected.  I don’t think we even got hit once at the quarterback position as we were delivering the football.  So I do feel a little bit better ‑‑ a lot better with this offensive line.

And also, Miller practiced on Thursday and only practiced half the practice.  In a 35‑minute period he may have practiced 20 minutes of that, and Matt Smith practiced on Thursday the whole 35 minutes.  And that’s the only practice time those two guys got.

We were working Larry at guard, center, you know, so he was going back and forth also during the week.  So I was really pleased with the way those guys handled it.  And I got a chance to watch the video on the plane and talk to Coach Summers about it.  I thought those guys did really well up front, opening up some holes and understanding the protection and all the blitzes that we were giving.  They did a good job of protecting us.

Q.  Matt Smith seemed to think you guys were less physical against Western than you were against Florida.

COACH PHILLIPS:  I don’t know that.  I just thought that they did a good job this past week for sure.

Q.  I remember last year before this game you said if you were an NFL GM you would take Clowney first overall as a freshman?

COACH PHILLIPS:  Again, they should issue everybody one of those.  I’m just telling you.  He’s even better this year.  He’s a lot faster, a lot quicker off the ball, uses his hands better.  Again, he would be the number one pick this year if I was a GM, if he was coming out.  They should let him come out, I think.  They should let him ‑‑ huh?  Yeah.  We could pick him up in the supplemental draft or something and that’s one of the guys I was telling you we gotta manage the “oh, shoots.”  When he’s coming at you with a screwed‑up protection, what do I do with the ball?  Oh, shoot.  Here he comes.

Q.  Do you go at a guy like that or do you try to contain him?  What do you do when one guy can cut off almost the entire part of the field?

COACH PHILLIPS:  First of all, I wouldn’t want to give up anything we want to do, especially wouldn’t say we want to go at him.  Why would I say and get that guy mad at us also like Brent Pease was?  I don’t want to do that.

No, we gotta run our offense, but also be aware of where ‑‑ because again, you’re talking about go‑to guys, go‑to receivers and all that.  Meanwhile if you’re focusing on the go‑to receivers and somebody is open, you gotta go through all.  We were 100 percent about Clowney.  There’s a guy over here on the other side, Devin Taylor who’s 6′ 6, and he’s kind of getting lost in all the excitement of Clowney, and wanting to get a couple other guys inside.

Last year Taylor kind of got lost in Ingram and Clowney.  And Taylor’s made a lot of plays at South Carolina since he’s been there.  So we’ve gotta make sure we’re aware of where he’s at but also make sure we’re aware of where Devin Taylor is at also.

Q.  The pass rush this week and the next few weeks in the SEC, is this part of the reason why that quick‑pass offense ‑‑

COACH PHILLIPS:  Yeah.  We get the ball out of our hands a lot quicker.  We have people in the flats a lot quicker also, have a lot of different sets, bunch sets.  We can put a tight end over there to chip in.  We have tight end on one side, tailback on another side and chip their way out from being in the flat, so a lot of things we can do to try to slow down the pass rushing.  We’ve been a big screen team also that’s helped slow down the pass rush, which you have to do.  You have to get the ball out of your hands quick, have to have some screen capacity and also play actions, those type of things is what slow down the pass rush.

Q.  If Kevin Mitchell is out will Trevino Woods be there?

COACH PHILLIPS:  He would, but we think Kevin will be fine.  We think he’ll play.  He’s a lot better today than he was yesterday for sure, but we think he’ll be fine.  And Trevino’s got an ankle also.  So if either one of those guys can’t go, we’ll go at the lineup with another true freshmen, in Swindle who played probably 15 snaps Saturday.  I looked at the defense once and it was six freshmen, five true freshmen and a redshirt freshmen.  We’ll just play another one.

Q.  You told us on Saturday that Ashely Lowery had a head injury.  Is that a concussion now?

COACH PHILLIPS:  He had concussion‑like symptoms, but they don’t think he had a concussion, no.

Q.  Since Spurrier’s been at South Carolina they’ve been known more for defense than offense.  What do you make of that?

COACH PHILLIPS:  It’s the state.  I got a chance to coach in that state, and that’s one of the reasons we started recruiting that state because there’s so many defensive players.  The year I was at South Carolina the Super Bowl might have been … there was New England and someone and there was seven kids from the state of South Carolina and none had played at South Carolina or Clemson.  And that’s one of the reasons why I said, wherever I go, we need to recruit this state every year because there’s so many players and not all of them are going to Clemson or South Carolina.

So many guys that, again, don’t get rated, aren’t rated real high, a lot of Rafael Littles, or you know, that they can’t take.  They’re not taking.  But there’s a lot of numbers and defensive players, especially defensive linemen, they got ten defensive linemen on their two deep.  Eight of them are from the state of South Carolina.  And then you look up the road at Clemson, there’s probably eight more.

We talked a lot to some of the guys on the staff, (indecipherable) we gotta find some offensive linemen.  We got too many defensive linemen in this state.  Do you ever remember that problem occurring here?