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USM coach wants to look past TCU drubbing

By By Stan Caldwell / EMG sports writer
Nov. 5, 2002
HATTIESBURG University of Southern Mississippi head football coach Jeff Bower didn't want to spend much time reviewing last Wednesday's game at Texas Christian.
You can't blame him, really, because nobody likes to recall painful memories. And the memories of the 37-7 whipping the Golden Eagles absorbed at the hands of TCU are about as painful as they get.
When Bower said USM played poorly in the kicking game and on offense, he was understating his team's performance. The Golden Eagles netted just 185 yards of offense, including 75 on the ground, and gave up two costly turnovers.
And the special teams were truly abysmal. Punter Mark Haulman punted 10 times for a 33.8 yard average, there was a bad snap on one punt, place-kicker Curt Jones missed an easy field-goal attempt and USM turned the ball over when a short punt glanced off the leg of one of the coverage team members.
USM, now 5-3 overall and 3-1 in Conference USA, somehow got through the first half only trailing 13-0, then cut the margin to 13-7 on a 48-yard touchdown pass from Dustin Almond to Marvin Young. Then the wheels came off in a third-quarter disaster that saw the Horned Frogs score the final 24 points of the game.
Bower and the Eagle coaching staff have to hope there are no lingering after-effects of the loss to TCU, as they prepare for the season's home stretch. USM returns to action Saturday for a C-USA game against UAB at Legion Field in Birmingham.
And confidence is something the Golden Eagles appear to lack at the present.
USM's confidence level would be helped immensely by a positive report on senior tailback Derrick Nix, who left the TCU game with a leg injury in the second quarter and did not return. Nix was to undergo a nerve test on Monday to determine the nature of his injury, which is some sort of strain on his right calf.
In the meantime, the Eagles are preparing as if Nix will not be available for the UAB game. That means freshman Anthony Harris and sophomore James Walley will have to be ready, despite injury concerns of their own. Harris has been battling a hip pointer and Walley has been plagued all season with shoulder and back ailments.
With Nix hobbled, the USM offense has ground virtually to a halt, leaving Eagle coaches grasping at straws in an effort to stop the bleeding.
Klenakis said the key moment against TCU came when the Golden Eagles drove to a first-and-goal at the TCU 9 yard-line and failed to score. Jones subsequently missed the chip-shot field goal and, except for the big scoring play to Young, USM was never close to the goal again.
Defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix said his unit played marginally better against the Horned Frogs than in previous games, not allowing the kind of clock-eating drives that were seen in the two previous games.
Nix will be without one of his defensive line starters for the rest of the season, as nose tackle Skylor Magee will have back surgery this week. Otherwise, the Eagles are in decent shape as far as injuries are concerned. The trick is just to get the players on hand to practice this week like there is no tomorrow.
USM did not choose players of the game on offense or defense, but did name sophomore Seth Cumbie as Special Teams Player of the Week for making five tackles on kick coverage teams.