What do you get when you mix together the first game of the season, at a 9 PM kickoff, on the road, in a tropical storm, versus a team with 17 consecutive winning seasons, and a redshirt senior quarterback versus a 17 year old true freshman quarterback? One very interesting night of football that's for sure.
Southern Miss ended up winning a close game in a 2 point win against Louisiana Tech. There were big time special teams plays, turnovers, dropped passes, and a lack of third down conversions that all were a piece of the winning puzzle for USM. However, here are 2 separate stats I feel were key contributors to the loss for the Bulldogs.
Yards on 1st down
Louisiana Tech had 28 first down plays for the entire game. Of those 28 plays, 8 of them resulted in negative yards (half of those were losses of at least 5 yards). In fact, Tech only averaged 2.9 yards per play on first down gaining a total of 82 yards (including penalties). Over half of those total yards came on one play -- Quinton Patton's amazing 46 yard reception.
Southern Miss had 36 first down plays for the entire game. Of those 36 plays, 5 of them resulted in negative yards (only 2 were losses of at least 5 yards). USM averaged 4.4 yards per play on first down gaining a total of 160 yards (including penalties).
Given all the elements, first down plays had a huge role in Tech not winning this game. With an offense that needs a rhythm to succeed, positive yards are a must to get the drive moving, especially when this is the first start for Nick Isham. Tech's third down conversion rate of 4/16 or 25% had a lot to do with Tech's poor first down plays.
Inside the 25
Louisiana Tech had the ball 5 times inside USM's 25 yard line. They only scored twice for 10 points. On 3 of those occasions they went backyards on the very next play. One was a crucial holding penalty and the other a sack (losses of 10 yards each), both inevitably taking them out of field goal range. The other time was a 8 yard loss by Brock Waters on a broken play with the veer, then an attempted field goal was all for not as a delay of game penalty kept Matt Nelson from attempting a 50-yard field goal.
Southern Miss had the ball 4 times inside Tech's 25 yard line. They scored all 4 times for 16 points. There other 3 points had them as close as the 26 yard line, which was the ultimate game-winner.
Missed opportunities seemed the be the theme of the game for the Bulldogs. They also missed a 4th down conversion at the 14 yard line when Isham fumbled (he didn't have the first down anyways). Being in a scoring position should've been taken with a little more care. If it had been, the result may have been different.
These 2 areas need to be corrected against the UCA Bears this Saturday night at Joe Aillet Stadium.
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