A week after taking it on the chin 43-28 against North Texas, Southern Miss gets a shot at redemption on the road Saturday night at UTSA.
The odds will be stacked against the Golden Eagles (2-2, 0-1) when they walk into the Alamodome for the 6 p.m. kickoff. UTSA is a 12 ½-point favorite according to the oddsmakers in Las Vegas.
UTSA is 3-0 and might be 4-0 if not for the cancellation of the Sept. 2 season opener in San Antonio against Houston due to Hurricane Harvey.
The Roadrunners, who are coming off a bye week, beat winless Baylor 17-10 on Sept. 9 and rolled to wins over Southern University and Texas State.
UTSA has gotten to this point behind the nearly flawless play of senior quarterback Dalton Sturm and a strong defense. Sturm has completed 76.1 percent of his passes for 659 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions.
On defense, the Roadrunners are leading Conference USA in scoring defense (13.7) and total defense (207 ypg).
UTSA defensive coordinator Pete Golding, a native of Hammond, La., served as the safeties coach at USM in 2014 and 2015 as a part of former head coach Todd Monken's staff.
“They’re playing physical football,” USM head coach Jay Hopson said of UTSA. “They’ve been very good on defense and offense this year. They’ve got good players at their skill positions and up front. They’re a team that’s playing with a lot of confidence. They’re a football team that, athletically, is a good football team. They had a big win against Baylor starting off the season, then beat Southern and Texas State. We know they’ve got a good football team.”
The Golden Eagles are out for a bit of revenge after being embarrassed 55-32 in San Antonio a year ago. UTSA led 28-7 after one quarter and put together an impressive showing on the ground, running 35 times for 339 yards and six touchdowns.
The win over USM sparked a late season surge by UTSA, winning five of its last eight regular season games to earn the program's first bowl bid. The Roadrunners finished 6-7 after losing 23-20 to New Mexico in the New Mexico Bowl.
USM is coming off a humbling defeat at home, but UTSA head coach Frank Wilson believes his team is in for a challenge.
“Going into the North Texas game, I thought USM was very talented,” Wilson said. “I still think they are. They just have such quality depth. They play up to 10 defensive linemen, and they rotate them in and some are third-down specialists.”
Wilson, who served as the running backs coach and recruiting coordinator at USM in 2008 under former head coach Larry Fedora, is in his second season as head coach at UTSA and has quickly earned respect for making the Roadrunners competitive in C-USA. He signed a new five-year contract in August that will pay him $1,050,000 this year to make him the highest paid coach in C-USA, according to Sports Illustrated.
USM was forced to return to San Antonio for the second consecutive season due to a scheduling quirk required by the addition of UAB to the C-USA West following the revival of the Blazers' football program.
Who: Southern Miss vs. UTSA
When: 6 p.m., Saturday
Where: San Antonio