The Prospector

Miners feeling confident as they travel to Southern Miss

Adrian Broaddus, Editor-In-Chief

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A loss by one point means one more speck of hope that the Miners (0-6, 0-2 C-USA) will get their first win against Southern Miss in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, on Saturday.

Interim head coach Mike Price believes the team’s spirited efforts in their 35-21 loss to Army and 15-14 near win against defending C-USA champion Western Kentucky will help propel the team by giving them what they need to win a game.

“Proud to be a Miner Saturday,” he said after his first game back with the Miners. “Did not win the game on the scoreboard, but proud our players got ready physically, but more important, they played with their hearts. Says a lot about their character. They had adversity and overcame it.”

The team’s adversity stems from former head coach Sean Kugler resigning last week after the team’s loss to Army and having to quickly adjust to Price being named the interim head coach.

“I’m just glad they have names on their jersey—that helps,” Price said with a chuckle. “If we continue to play and continue to get a little better each week, we’ll get some wins into our column.”

Price is starting to get familiar with the team and they are building off their continuous improvement week after week.

“Very pleased we played four quarters hard,” Price said. “We wanted to take care of the ball offensively. Tackled much better than the past. That was great.”

In their loss to Western Kentucky, it was a game of team highs that fell just short of a victory for the Miners.

Two weeks ago, they were ranked last in all of FBS in total offense, total rushing yards and ranked second-worst for their overall record.

Against WKU, they put up their season high with 287 yards of total offense, 163 rushing yards and season low of 282 yards allowed defensively.

“We plan on winning this weekend, that’s our goal,” Price said. “We showed it Saturday night that we can compete in this league.”

He’s right, and as tough as this season has started, the Miners still have a shot to compete for a top spot in the conference. Although they currently sit in last place of the West Division, the top team, North Texas, only has a 3-2 record.

They are truly in control of their own destiny.

But what they aren’t in control over is the injuries that continue to pile up. Quarterback Ryan Metz, who suffered an injury in the Army game, is still questionable with a back injury. Starting running back Quadraiz Wadley just came off a shoulder injury, and he suffered a knee injury on Saturday and will get x-rayed this week, according to Price.

“You can’t have one of your best players hurt every game of the season,” Price said.

During his weekly press conference, Price indicated that Zack Greenlee would get the starting gig as quarterback for the Miners against Southern Miss and was pleased with his performance.

“Greenlee fits the concept we’re going for,” he said. “Greenlee took care of the ball really well. Was on rhythm, under control. He was excited to play in the game. Gotta play that way.”

Southern Miss (3-2, 1-1 C-USA) will enter Saturday’s contest after a nice division win against UTSA, 31-29, on the road. Keon Howard, the Golden Eagles’ late starting quarterback change, looks to have secured the starting role after he accurately completed 15-of-20 passes for 212 yards and three touchdowns.

Overall, Howard ranks second in the conference with a 158.1 passing efficiency through his two starts on the year. He’s a quarterback with poise, who will look to do damage to the Miners’ defense.

Ito Smith, Southern Miss’ leading running back, is a familiar foe for the Miners. Last year off 16 carries, he rushed for 108 yards and had a receiving touchdown as the Golden Eagles stomped on UTEP 34-7 in the Sun Bowl.

This year, Smith is already ranked second in rushing yards per game (122.6) and has five total rushing touchdowns.

The offense is going to be hard to stop as they average 29.8 points per game while holding their opponents to 22.6 points per game. They average 449.6 yards per game and allow 346.6 yards per game by their opponent—both which rank third in C-USA.

“We gotta score more points,” Price said. “Can’t be shut out in the second half. Gotta eliminate points by them. Continue to have spirited energy and emotional intensity. Make a couple field goals.”

Although they were sound on almost all areas of special teams, the Miners completely dropped off when it came to field goals. Kicker Brady Viles missed three out of three field goals during Saturday’s game against Western Kentucky—one being the go-ahead field goal from 41-yards out.

“(Viles) kicked tremendously on kickoffs,” Price said. “We’ll help him out (on field goals).”

When traveling to Hattiesburg, Price is 2-0 as a head coach. He believes it’s a great place to play and his team has a shot of getting their first win on the road.

“They have a good program,” he said. “We have to come out with the same enthusiasm and we’ll have a chance.”

As he embarks on his second week as interim head coach, Price says it will take some time to adjust to all the players, but is ultimately optimistic entering a week of practice.

“Half of the time I didn’t know what the play was so I would ask a quarterback what was going on, so I have to catch up on that,” he said. “(Offensive coordinator Brian) Natkin made some really good calls and so did (defensive coordinator Tom) Mason.  Could be an exciting balance with (Natkin’s) conservative plays and my exciting plays.”

And that’s what spectators should expect to see on Saturday—more excitement that the team hopes to bring. For Price and the squad, however, the ultimate goal is to finally get a win.

Kickoff between the two is slated for 5 p.m. MT at Southern Miss.

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Miners feeling confident as they travel to Southern Miss