With several big wins, including a road win over USF, the Southern Miss Golden Eagles debuted in the national rankings this week.
Southern Miss came to Tampa undefeated but were playing a Bulls team that was 34-4 at Raymond James stadium. A 27-20 win over USF followed by a 35-29 overtime win over Houston, their 12th consecutive win, landed the Golden Eagles (4-0, 3-0 C-USA) at No. 24 in the Associated Press Poll and No. 25 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll.
“This is nice, but it is not good enough,” Southern Miss coach Jeff Bower said. “We still have to continue getting better as a football team. It is a long season and a lot can happen between now and the end of the season. We have to take it week by week, maintain our focus each game and continue working hard.”
The Bulls (2-2, 1-1), on the other hand, look to improve with hopes of a bowl game at the end of the season.
“It’ll be real interesting to see how everything plays out. This time of year you get some teams that can rally and get better and improve where they’re at — to play better football in all phases.”
The Bulls must win at least four of their remaining seven games to be bowl-eligible at the end of the year.
USF hosts an Army team Saturday that beat Cincinnati last week, snapping a 19-game losing streak. From there, the Bulls begin a two-game road trip beginning at No. 17 Louisville and ending at UAB. Both games are televised by ESPN2. The Bulls are then home to East Carolina, at Cincinnati and finish up the year hosting Memphis and Pittsburgh.
“We’ve got a lot of our schedule left,” Leavitt said. “It’s early in the season and almost all of the Conference USA teams have had close losses except for Louisville and UAB. It’s so early and the key is to get your team to respond positively, and hopefully you will have enough leadership where guys rise up, shore up the mistakes that are being made, get a lot better and battle.
“The teams that have that ability to do that throughout this year are going to be the ones that are going to be successful and go to bowl games.”
Moving on up: If nothing else, the idle week has rid USF of the title of team with the most penalty yards per game.
USF (98 penalty yards per game), formerly No. 117 out of 117 teams, was passed this week by the University of Louisiana at Monroe, which averages 101 yards per game.
The Bulls still lead the nation with 12 penalties per game.
Lots of tackles: USF free safety Javan Camon, known as a hard tackler, is ranked No.4 in C-USA with an average of 10 stops per game.
The senior leads all Bulls with 45 tackles on the year. He has played every game for three consecutive years. The season opener against Tennessee Tech was the first start of his career.
Camon took over for J.R. Reed, who now plays for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Quotable: “You lose and you want to win and then you feel like crap, you don’t sleep, you’re in a bad mood and you don’t want to be around anyone. I haven’t sat with all our guys but I imagine they are the same way I am. Who likes to lose? You work your tail off to try and win a ballgame. Nobody should be in a very good mood, to be honest with you.” — Jim Leavitt after losing by a touchdown to Southern Miss.