Southern Miss

Five things to watch for as Southern Miss football takes on Rice in Houston

The Southern Miss football team will look to get back on track at noon on Saturday when it travels to take on winless Rice in Houston.

The Owls’ 0-7 mark is a little deceiving considering they have four losses by eight or fewer points, including a 23-20 overtime loss to the same Louisiana Tech team that beat USM 45-30 last week. A 21-13 loss to undefeated Baylor is also included in that group.

Southern Miss (4-3, 2-1 in Conference USA) is in need of a rebound as it looks to get back in the hunt in the C-USA West.

Saturday’s game will be shown on ESPN-plus, a digital subscription service that costs $4.99 a month.

Here are some things to keep an eye on Saturday:

Injury update: Southern Miss had its top two running backs, redshirt junior Kevin Perkins and senior De’Michael Harris, leave last week’s loss to Louisiana Tech with unspecified injuries.

Harris appeared to be the more seriously injured of the two after taking a hard hit to the upper body against Louisiana Tech early in the second quarter.

After coaches seemed pessimistic about Harris returning for the Rice game during Monday’s press conference, he did take the practice field midway through the week. While his chances of playing on Saturday have improved, his status remains uncertain.

Harris, who had a 100-yard kickoff return to start the game last week, has been explosive as a rusher, receiver and kick returner this season. In six games, he has 693 all-purpose yards and a team-leading seven touchdowns.

Perkins, who has 61 carries for 286 yards, seems likely to play after missing time in the second half of the Tech game.

USM is still awaiting the return of sophomore Trivenskey Mosley, the starting running back who went down in the season opener with an injury.

Rice back injured: USM isn’t the only team dealing with injuries at running back. Rice leading rusher Aston Walter is considered day-to-day with a shoulder injury, according to the Houston Chronicle.

The 5-foot-8, 201-pound Walter has 110 carries for 504 yards and five touchdowns.

Rice’s second-leading rusher is senior Charlie Booker, who has 53 carries for 160 yards.

QB rebound: After throwing four interceptions last week, USM redshirt junior quarterback Jack Abraham should be due a big day against Rice if recent history is any indication.

During USM’s current four-game winning streak against the Owls, Southern Miss quarterbacks have thrown for 1,851 yards and 18 touchdowns. That’s an average of 463 passing yards a game.

Abraham completed 25 of 34 passes for 428 yards and four touchdowns with one interception in a 40-22 victory over the Owls in Hattiesburg last year.

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Defensive numbers: The Rice defense is allowing an average of 399.6 yards a game this season with 244.3 of that coming through the air.

Outside of the season opener against Army, the Owls have yet to hold an opponent under 210 yards passing. Texas piled up 338 yards and three touchdowns through the air in a 48-13 win over Rice on Sept. 14.

Rice QB situation: Senior Tom Stewart and Freshman Wiley Green have split time at quarterback this season for Rice.

Stewart, who has a pair of 20-yard runs this season, appears to be the quarterback more likely to take off with the football.

Green has completed 54.3 percent of his passes for 683 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.

Stewart has hit 61.5 percent of his attempts for 532 yards, four touchdowns and one interception.

Patrick Magee is a sports writer who has covered South Mississippi for much of the last two decades. From Southern Miss to high schools, he stays on top of it all.