USM continues practice FridayBy FROM SOUTHERN MISS,
HATTIESBURG – While the Southern Miss football team finished just its second practice of fall camp Friday morning, the Golden Eagles continue to look toward the upcoming season with their sights set on challenging for a Conference USA championship and third-straight bowl berth.
Still relatively early in the process of getting ready for the season, second-year Jay Hopson said that the squad has a ways to go to get ready for the year, but likes the way his team has practiced through the first week.
“There’s still a lot of corrections to be made,” said Hopson after the team’s second fall camp practice Friday. “We have good schematic retention, but the fundamentals and little things we got to get better. Still, we had good effort and we are further along schematically. Now we just have to work fundamentally.”
The Golden Eagles head into the new season vying to improve on a 7-6 record a year ago, which ended on a strong note.
Southern Miss collected a 39-24 victory in the regular-season finale at home against Louisiana Tech to make themselves bowl eligible and then captured a 28-21 R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl triumph over Louisiana-Lafayette to finish the season on a strong positive note in Hopson’s initial campaign.
The final two victories propelled the program to its 69th winning season in the program’s 100-year history and for the 36th time in the last 46 years.
While the Golden Eagles ended last year on a strong note, the season also started well with the team capturing its first two games, including a come-from-behind 44-35 victory over Kentucky in the hostile environment of Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington.
The Wildcats hope to return the favor this season as the two schools again open the year, this time at The Rock. It will be the second time in the last three campaigns Southern Miss entertained a team from the Southeastern Conference to open the schedule – Mississippi State was the other school in 2015.
The Golden Eagles preparation at this stage of the game, which started on Wednesday, looks to put the team in a position to which they will battle towards a potential sixth C-USA championship.
Senior leadership, which will come in the form of defensive back Curtis Mikell of Bassfield, Miss., among others, provides the motivation to help this year’s team get better and grow during this long month of practice and through the fall months of the season.
“I’m just trying to be a leader, all the seniors are,” said Mikell. “We are just trying to help the young guys and build up the team this year, together. We just want everyone together and on the same page, just trying to make a better team this year.”
During the 2016 campaign, the Golden Eagles finished No. 21 nationally in total offense (472.8 ypg) and No. 15 in total defense (324.8), but looks to improve in one area heading into the 2017 season – ball security.
The team finished last season with 32 turnovers (16 fumbles, 16 interceptions) and only registered 15 takeaways.
“That is big thing that we have stressed hard and worked on so hopefully we will see big dividends this year,” said Hopson.
Still, the Golden Eagles are a month away until they unfold the new season and there is no doubt Hopson will have them ready to go for the Wildcats in the opener.
Season tickets, flex plans, and group tickets for the 2017 Golden Eagle home season are still available and can be purchased by going online at SouthernMissTickets.com, by calling 1-800-844-TICK (8425) or by visiting the Pat Ferlise Ticket Office, weekdays, from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Discounts are available for Southern Miss faculty and staff, senior citizens, military personnel, and recent Southern Miss graduates. The Golden Eagles open the 2017 season at home on Saturday, Sept. 2, at 3 p.m. against SEC opponent Kentucky.