at Southern Miss 48 … Rice 24
Posted Oct 1, 2011

Week 5 CFN Fearless Prediction & Game Story - Rice at Southern Miss

2011 Predictions & Game Story 

Week 5 - Rice at Southern Miss

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Oct. 1 at Southern Miss 48 … Rice 24
CFN Analysis: Southern Miss is mostly known for its passing, and Austin Davis was terrific throwing for 284 yards and three scores, but the ground game owned Rice with Kendrick Hardy tearing off 172 yards and a score as the team came up with 370 yards and three touchdowns. The Golden Eagles took control in the third quarter and were never threatened despite turning it over four times. At 1-1 in conference play, USM gets a week off against Navy before dealing with the SMU passing attack, but the defense is playing at a high enough level, allowing just 81.6 rushing yards per game, to deal with both before diving into the tough second half stretch.

Rice couldn't slow down the USM running game and the passing attack couldn't pick up the slack. The offense hasn't been a plus so far, surprisingly having way too many problems throwing the ball with Nick Fanuzzi and Taylor McHargue not efficient or effective down the field. The big problem, through, continues to be a run defense that's giving up way too many big runs and isn't generating enough pressure. Finally the schedule eases up a bit with Memphis up next, but Tulane is the only other breather the rest of the way. If the defense can't start to be more aggressive into the backfield and can't get better play out of the linebackers, the more losses like this will be the norm.

(AP) HATTIESBURG, Miss. -- Austin Davis threw for 284 yards and three touchdowns, Kendrick Hardy rushed for 172 yards and Southern Mississippi scored four unanswered touchdowns in the second half to turn a tight game into a 48-24 victory over Rice on Saturday night.

Southern Miss (4-1, 1-1 Conference USA) gained 654 total yards, including 370 on the ground, but four turnovers kept Rice (1-3, 0-1) in the game. The Owls scored twice on fumble recoveries, including a 96-yard return by Xavier Webb that briefly gave Rice a 24-20 lead early in the third quarter.

But the Owls simply couldn't stop the Southern Miss offense. The Golden Eagles kept churning away with big gains on the ground, even as Hardy and backup Jamal Woodyard left the game with injuries.

Kelvin Bolden caught nine passes for 132 yards and a touchdown for Southern Miss while Ryan Balentine caught seven for 114 yards and two touchdowns.

Rice (1-2) at Southern Miss (3-1) Oct. 1, 7:30, CSS

Here's The Deal … So, which is the real Southern Miss, the one that lost to a bad Marshall team in Huntington or the one that surprised the ACC's Virginia in Charlottesville last Saturday? The 30-24 victory was a crucial one for a program that's still searching for an identity. Having already dropped that game to the Thundering Herd, the Golden Eagles can ill-afford another conference loss if they have any hopes of copping the Eastern Division of Conference USA.

Never one to shy away from a tough schedule, Rice will travel to Hattiesburg this weekend as a battle-tested squad. The Owls have already played a pair of Big 12 opponents, losing to Texas and Baylor, and beaten Purdue out of the Big 10. Head coach David Bailiff's team is determined to surprise those unsuspecting foes who fail to factor in the competition level when sizing up its early season performance.

Why Rice Might Win: The Owls offense is just beginning to heat up as the mercury gradually starts to dip. They've increased their scoring and total yards each week, peaking with four touchdowns in a balanced effort in the loss to Baylor. Sophomore Taylor McHargue is an exciting threat who can beat defenses with his arm and his feet. In Waco last Saturday, he accounted for 304 yards and three scoring strikes, making good use of tight ends Vance McDonald and Luke Willson. If Rice can get off to a fast start, it has the point guard on offense to keep this game close throughout.

Why Southern Miss Might Win: Okay, so there's no shame in getting carved up by Robert Griffin, but five touchdown passes and 673 total yards is evidence that the Rice defense remains a liability. The Golden Eagles offense is coming off its best game of the season, lighting up a decent Virginia D for 313 yards and three scores through the air. QB Austin Davis continues to run the show crisply by dishing the ball to Kelvin Bolden, Tracy Lampley and Ryan Balentine. If Southern Miss can free up RB Kendrick Hardy, who was penned in by the Cavaliers, the Owls will struggle all night to force punts and field goal attempts.

What To Watch Out For: McHargue is a playmaker and the kind of catalyst who could wind up starting for three years in Houston. However, this weekend he's going to be tested by the Southern Miss pass defense. The Golden Eagles have already picked off a league-high eight passes, taking two of them back for touchdowns. Not only have corners Deron Wilson and Marquese Wheaton been jumping routes, but all-conference LB Korey Williams has intercepted three passes as well. Unfortunately for USM, Williams was injured a week ago, which will make running pass routes a lot easier for those talented Rice tight ends.

What Will Happen: Rice cannot be taken lightly, and Southern Miss knows it. The Golden Eagles will begin life without Williams on defense, which will require Davis to take on an even bigger leadership role going forward in 2011. With a little extra motivation now that former USM star Brett Favre will be working the broadcast booth, the senior will throw a pair of touchdown passes and run another one in. He'll also receive more help from Hardy and a running game that went AWOL in Virginia last week.

CFN Prediction: Southern Miss 38 … Rice 21
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