As the saying goes, misery loves company. That saying arguably is the best way describe Southern Miss and Tulane after each team blew respective leads last week.
To recap, Southern Miss blew a 17-point lead against Louisiana Tech while Tulane, which held a 24-0 lead, allowed Navy to score 27 unanswered points to win.
Despite the Golden Eagles’ loss last week, the team did show signs of improvement in interim coach Scotty Walden’s first game.
For the first time in five games, Southern Miss eclipsed the 100-yard mark in the rushing game as the Golden Eagles accumulated 129 yards. Simultaneously, as promised by Walden, the offense was more aggressive, and unlike Week 1, was 4-for-4 in the red zone.
The only perk for Southern Miss (0-2) is that the Golden Eagles seemed to have improved while the Green Wave (1-1) look to have taken steps back.
At the same time, as many know, Tulane is a familiar opponent for the Golden Eagles after losing the Armed Forced Bowl. While Tulane is familiar, so is the Green Wave’s quarterback, Keon Howard. Howard played in 13 games while at USM and threw for 1,564 yards, nine touchdowns and nine interceptions.
In his first two games at Tulane, Howard is 24-of-55 and has thrown 299 yards and one interception while rushing for 57 yards and a touchdown.
Against Navy, Howard was 10-of-25 and passed for 108 yards and an interception. Despite the inconsistent numbers, Walden and the coaching staff hold tremendous respect for Howard.
“Keon is a phenomenal leader,” Walden said. “When he won the job, we were all happy for him here. I was a transfer quarterback three times, and I know what that’s like to earn your way. He might have struggled last week against Navy, but he’ll be ready for this game, no doubt about it.
“We respect him, and he is a great player. He can beat you with his feet and an incredibly strong arm. He has a live arm.”
On offense, the key to Tulane’s success has been with its run game. The Green Wave average 234 yards a game and have totaled seven touchdowns. Running back, Tyjae Spears leads the team with 229 yards while Cameron Carroll leads the group with four touchdowns.
Also playing key roles in that running back group are Petal alums Stephon Huderson and Phatt Watts.
“Their running backs are running almost for 240 yards per game,” Defensive Coordinator Tony Pecoraro said. “They do a really good job of running the football. They have some really good run schemes. They are very multiple in their run schemes.
“We are going to have to do a great job of stopping the run, but I think that’s kind of every week but especially this game, since that’s their main deal. I’m sure they are similar to South Alabama; they’ll run the ball and take their shots when they can. We’ll have to do a good job of preventing the big play in the passing game.”
According to Pecoraro, one of the main keys for his defense is making defensive stops, especially after the Golden Eagles went 10-of-16 on third down.
“I thought we played harder (last week),” Pecoraro said. “I thought overall we tackled better, but we have to find a way to get off the field on third down. That’s a big part of it.
“We are getting to third down, but we have to get off the field on third down. There were a lot of third and shorts.”
Defensively, Tulane’s defense is highlighted by its defensive line. Notably, the Green Wave have made 19 tackles for loss and five sacks this season. According to offensive coordinator Matt Kubik, he believes that there is easily NFL talent within the Green Waves linemen.
“Their defensive line is really good,” Kubik said. “They have got some potential draft picks I think with (Cameron Sample and (Patrick Johnson) and (Jeffery Johnson). Johnson is kind of a middle plug guy.
“I think the defensive line stands out. Their linebackers can really run. They have got some new starters in the secondary, but they look like they can run as well. I wouldn’t say there is a weakness there, but their strength is their defensive line.”
Southern Miss will kick off against Tulane at 1:30 p.m. in M.M. Roberts Stadium with the game televised on Stadium TV.