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October 12, 2010INSIDE SLANT
Southern Mississippi's two losses this season have hurt, but Saturday's 44-43 defeat to the hands of East Carolina seems to be the most painful.
The Golden Eagles lost despite jumping out to a 20-0 lead.
Southern Miss also lost two linebackers in the game, with Martez Smith going out because of a knee injury and Korey Williams being ejected for throwing a punch in a sideline scuffle.
Southern Miss lost 153 yards because it committed 15 penalties. It's the second consecutive week that the Golden Eagles committed at least 12 penalties.
"I could not be any more disappointed that we lost the game," coach Larry Fedora. said "It might be different if we did not have many opportunities to win the game, but I am disappointed.
"You have to finish drives and we did not do that tonight. We were 3-for-17 on third downs. It is hard to be successful that away."
In addition, the Golden Eagles hurt themselves in the bigger picture. East Carolina is 3-0 in Conference USA play and the Golden Eagles are 1-1.
Coming into the game, this match-up was seen, as it has been for the past couple years, as one that would factor into the Conference USA championship game.
In the past few seasons, the Southern Miss-East Carolina game has been one of the most important and exciting games in the Conference USA race. The teams have combined for 19 bowl appearances. They have split the last four games in the series, with three of the games being decided by a touchdown or less, including one overtime game.
This game was close largely because East Carolina made plays and Southern Miss could not. The Golden Eagles were plus-four in turnover differential, but could not get touchdowns. Southern Miss settled for five field goals.
"Definitely, it was bittersweet," kicker Daniel Hrapmann said. "I was hoping that it was going to come down to the end to be able to finish it off. I had a good night, but it really doesn't matter when the score is what it is."
• Running back Desmond Johnson, Southern Miss' leading rusher and the player with the most receptions, was suspended earlier in the week and did not play against East Carolina. In a statement released by Southern Miss, coach Larry Fedora said Johnson was suspended for "violation of team policy."
• Making five field goals in a game can be good and bad. Southern Miss K Danny Hrapmann set a school record with five field goals, a highlight in what has been a great season for Hrapmann. But it also meant too often the Southern Miss offense stalled.
• Only one team in the nation has committed more penalties than the Golden Eagles. A big reason for the problem has been the last two weeks. Southern Miss has committed 27 penalties for 283 yards in the last two games. In their first four games, the Golden Eagles committed 33 penalties.
Game Ball Goes To: K Danny Hrapmann-The Southern Miss kicker's great season continued Saturday. His school record of five field goals had four that were from challenging length-49, 38, 49 and 39. He has made 16 consecutive field goals dating to the New Orleans Bowl, the school's longest streak since 1995.
Keep An Eye On: QB Austin Davis-The Golden Eagles quarterback has been off-target in recent weeks. His completion percentage has dropped in each of the past three games-from 58 percent to 55 to 51. He needs to be sharper. On a positive note, he has thrown only one interception in the last four games.
Quote To Note: "I don't think necessarily penalties are the reason we didn't win, we just didn't get it done. We didn't make the plays when we had the opportunity to make plays on offense and we came up short."-Southern Miss quarterback Austin Davis.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Looking Good: For the second straight week, the Golden Eagles did not commit a turnover. Against East Carolina, Southern Miss was plus-four in turnover margin, so the team is taking care of the ball and making plays on defense. The bad part is, how many teams lose with a huge turnover margin?
Still Needs Work: The pass defense. East Carolina's spread offense gained more than 300 yards through the air. The Golden Eagles allowed two touchdown passes of 46 yards.
• Southern Miss linebacker Korey Williams was ejected for throwing a punch during a sideline scuffle. On Monday C-USA officials reviewed the game and cleared Williams to play in the game, ruling that he did not throw a punch in the sideline scuffle.
• Senior linebacker Martez Smith injured his knee in the first quarter and didn't return. His status for next week is unclear.