Houston Cougars Southern Miss Golden Eagles Football

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Last year, the Connecticut Huskies had to deal with the death of a player in an argument on the night following a game. This year, the young men who play football for the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles don’t have to endure the death of a teammate, but they have to wrestle with a tragedy just the same.

Even though Southern Miss still has an outside chance at claiming the Conference USA East Division title and advancing to the league’s championship game in the process, football may very well be the last thing on the minds of the Golden Eagles and their fans when they host the Houston Cougars this Saturday evening.  

The good vibes created by last Saturday’s stirring 31-21 upset of (then-) 25th-ranked Central Florida were extinguished almost immediately when linebackers Martez Smith and Tim Green, plus defensive lineman Deddrick Jones, were shot while at a nightclub last Saturday night.  Thankfully there were no fatalities and the players are expected to recover – Southern Miss head coach Larry Fedora indicated the players are in “fair condition” – but the shooting has to weigh heavily on the minds of all the Golden Eagles players, the coaching staff, and everyone affiliated with the program and university.  

Perhaps a football game will help to temporarily salve the anguish the shooting has caused.  If so, the Golden Eagles will need another efficient performance from junior quarterback Austin Davis, a 2,000-yard passer who completed 21-of-34 throws for 264 yards and four touchdowns in last Saturday’s win at Central Florida.  Davis has tossed 10 touchdowns and only two interceptions in his last four games, during which Southern Miss has gone 3-1 and moved toward the top of C-USA East once again.

As for Coach Kevin Sumlin’s Coogs, they desperately need a win over Southern Miss on Saturday to keep alive their faint hopes of going bowling.  After playing like a relatively experienced hand in his first five starts, frosh signal caller David Piland has seemingly hit a mental wall. He held up well in October, but Piland has struggled in November. He had a rough go of it in last Saturday’s 28-25 loss to Tulsa, throwing five interceptions.  Depending on Southern Miss’s emotional state, Piland could have a rougher time on Saturday since the Golden Eagles have intercepted opposing quarterbacks 14 times this season, which is second best in C-USA.

Unfortunately for the Coogs, Piland’s play may not even be their biggest concern come Saturday.  Instead, it’s Houston’s rushing defense, or lack thereof, that may be keeping Sumlin and his staff up late this week.  The Cougars rank 11th in total rushing defense in C-USA, giving up an average of 204 yards per game. That may very well spell trouble on Saturday, since Southern Miss averages 190 yards rushing and has scored 19 rushing touchdowns.

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