The Southern Miss football team can gain bowl eligibility for the second consecutive season with a win over Charlotte Saturday in Hattiesburg.
The Golden Eagles (5-3, 3-1) host the 49ers (3-5) for the first time at 2:30 p.m. at Roberts Stadium. The game will be televised locally on the Coast on WXXV-Fox.
Southern Miss badly needs a win Saturday with potentially tough contests waiting over the final three weeks of the season – at Old Dominion, at North Texas and Louisiana Tech in Hattiesburg in the season finale.
USM enters Saturday's contest as a 19.5 point favorite after rolling to a 24-14 win over Marshall in Hattiesburg a week ago.
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Charlotte, which won only one game against FBS competition last season, has been surprisingly competitive in Conference USA in recent weeks. The 49ers have won two of their last three games, sandwiching a loss to FIU with wins over Marshall and FAU.
“They’re a well-coached football team,” USM head coach Jay Hopson said. “They went to Huntington and beat Marshall up there, so we know we have an outstanding football team coming to town. We know we’ve got to be ready.”
Charlotte's improved play can largely be attributed to the decision to start sophomore freshman Hasaan Klugh, a dual-threat option at quarterback.
Klugh, a transfer from North Carolina A&T, has completed 66 percent of his passes for 750 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions. He has run 72 times for 337 yards and four scores.
“There's been a lot of change and Hasaan has been aprt of it,” Charlotte coach Brad Lambert said this week. “He's responded the way I thought he would. He's prepared the same; whether he's the starter, backup or third team guy. He didn't play at all last year and is now the starter.
“He was ready when the opportunity came. He's by no means perfect, but he's doing well and we're trying to take advantage of it.”
Charlotte senior running back Kalif Phillips has accounted for at least 100 yards from scrimmage in the last five games. He has 117 carries for 558 yards and three touchdowns this year.
The USM defense will look to put in a solid performance for a second consecutive week after holding Marshall to 226 yards of offense and just one third down conversion on 14 tries.
“I thought they played fast and physical and tackled well,” Hopson said of his defense “I thought we played assignment football.”
Hopson was optimistic early this week that senior receiver D.J. Thompson will play Saturday against Charlotte, but he'll be a question mark headed into the kickoff. Thompson stood on the sideline with his arm in a sling in the second half of the Marshall game.
Thompson has 31 catches for 335 yards and four touchdowns this season.
Who: Southern Miss vs. Charlotte
When: 2:30 p.m., Saturday
Where: Roberts Stadium, Hattieburg
Radio: 104.9 FM