HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WLBT) - It is a tight race for the West division crown in Conference USA and the Southern Miss football team is right in the thick of it. And that is just what head coach Jay Hopson envisioned of his squad as it enter what he calls “the third season” starting this Saturday when the Golden Eagles host UAB.
“This is the most important part,” Hopson said of the final four games of the season. “We’ve got to finish strong and November is a critical month for us. I think our guys understand we have four tough challenges and the only one that matters right now is the first one.”
Both USM and UAB sit in a tie for second place in the West with a 3-1 record and one game behind Louisiana Tech. So while neither team controls its fate when they meet at M.M. Roberts Stadium this weekend, the contest does serve as a de facto elimination game.
With that on the line, Southern Miss will have its hands full going of against a Blazers defense that ranks first in CUSA in both total and scoring defense, allowing only 255.3 yards and 17.5 points per game.
“They have a very fast and physical defense,” said USM offensive coordinator Buster Faulkner. “Extremely well coached, they play with an edge and play to the echo of the whistle. They’ve forced a bunch of fumbles throughout the course of the season so that means that they’re hitting and chasing the ball.”
The UAB defense is sure to be the tallest task that Jack Abraham has faced so far this season. The USM junior still holds the lead among CUSA quarterbacks with 308.8 passing yards per game.
Kick-off is set for 2:30 p.m. and will be televised on the NFL Network.