Bower unhappy with USM's play against Army
By By Stan Caldwell / EMG sports writer
Oct. 1, 2002
HATTIESBURG University of Southern Mississippi head coach Jeff Bower was tight-lipped to the point of grimness Monday as he addressed the media at his weekly press conference.
Nor should he have been. USM scored a quick touchdown early in the game after getting the first of six interceptions, then spent the rest of the first half in a slumber. Only a big goal-line stand kept the Cadets out of the end zone, preserving a 7-6 halftime lead.
The Golden Eagles played better in the second half, pulling away for the victory, but the performance still left USM coaches puzzled.
Bower said he knew almost from the first Saturday that his team was not fired up about the game, and he wasn't sure whether it stemmed from the off-kilter practice week, hangover from the loss to Alabama or the stomach virus that swept through the team early in the week.
When you are not ready to play, you won't play well. You won't do things right. You won't execute your fundamentals and techniques. We just weren't ready to play, and if we play like that again, we'll get beat."
One of the few players who played up to expectations Saturday was free safety Etric Pruitt, who swiped three of USM's six interceptions, and earned team and conference Player of the Week honors. Pruitt finished with three tackles, four assists and broke up two passes, to go along with his three interceptions.
After playing five consecutive Saturdays, the Golden Eagles get a much-needed break, with an open date Saturday before the Oct. 12 game against South Florida at Tampa, Fla. But while the team will get a bit of rest, Bower said they'll work hard to get back on track.
We're going to take the open week to get better," said Bower. "We have a lot of concentration of fundamentals. We're going to go back to work, and each one of our guys has to make a commitment to get better. The thing that disappoints me most is that some of our so-called good football players haven't played like good football players the last couple of games."
Both Bower and Klenakis dodged the question of whether there would be a change at quarterback. Starter Micky D'Angelo had his second consecutive mediocre game Saturday, completing 13 of 23 passes for 135 yards, including a touchdown and an interception.
Bower said the Eagles are in pretty good shape physically heading into the open week. Defensive end Darris McKenzie didn't make the trip because of his back; defensive end Eric Scott will be out today with a shoulder injury, but he should be fine. Bandit Terrell Paul has a knee and an ankle sprain, and cornerback Greg Brooks has a slight hamstring pull.
Wide receiver Chris Johnson earned Offensive Player of the Week honors, after catching nine passes for 92 yards, including 32 yards after the catch, and a touchdown. Special Teams Player of the Week was place-kicker Curt Jones, who converted both of his field goal attempts and all three points-after-touchdown.
With the week off, USM coaches will hit the recruiting trail in earnest, with coaches fanning across the region Thursday and Friday to scout prospects.