The Southern Miss Golden Eagles failed to secure a victory versus the Florida International Golden Panthers, who were statistically the worst team in the FBS. The Southern Miss football team was in a position to win the game for most of the game, by having two of the three lead changes heading into the fourth quarter. The game came down to Corey Acosta’s right leg from 44 yards, and the Panthers were successful with the field goal block, sealing the 24-23 win.
Allan Bridgford and the offense did many good things, but too many bad things. Bridgford went 26 for 45, throwing for 243 yards. Along with those 243 yards were three touchdowns and two interceptions.
The offense started moving the ball early with ease. Early on a fourth and one, head coach Todd Monken showed the sense of urgency for a win as he went for it early on the first possession. Many fans in the stands were pleased for the attempt. The Golden Eagles needed one yard, and running back Jalen Richard gained two. The drive ended with a Bridgford touchdown pass. Bridgford may have found a new favorite target as he connected with slot receiver Markese Triplett seven times for 96 yards and two touchdowns.
Unlike the the last three games, the Golden Eagles were the best team on the field. However, turnovers and inconsistent play plagued the Eagles once again. While the offense had the ball just 24 minutes, Bridgford was able to lead the team down the field on many drives, and on the final drive of the game the Panthers defense even helped the offense move the ball down the field as they were flagged for offsides and pass interference. Even with their help, the USM offense still could not seal the deal.
The Golden Eagles’ defense once again played at a very high level, stopping the Panthers to the best of their ability while defending shorter fields. The Golden Panthers offense started seven of their drives within 15 yards of the 50-yard line.
But despite losing the field position battle, the Golden Eagles did something against FIU that they had not done much of this season: force turnovers. The Eagles defense gave the offense as much help as they could, forcing a safety along with two interceptions. The defense was on the field for over 35 minutes of the game versus a fast-paced, no huddle offense.
Numbers do not lie, but stats mislead. Looking at the box score, you would say FIU deserved to win. But that was not the case Saturday as the Golden Eagles outplayed the Panthers. The way the Eagles offense moved victory was imminent, but turnovers and inconsistency killed drives. Bridgford’s two interceptions makes it 11 for the season, while his three touchdowns gave him six for the season. If the Golden Eagles look to beat the hot East Carolina Pirates, the offense will need to travel to Greenville, North Carolina next week along with the defense. It is simple to fix what is wrong with the Golden Eagles, protect the ball and control the ball.