Southern Miss must step it up with Rice on Saturday

The 21-20 win over Appalachian State gave Southern Miss back-to-back wins for the first time since the 2011 season.

Head coach Todd Monken says his Golden Eagles have gained momentum.

"There's nothing like winning," stated Monken. "Winning cures a lot of things. It's a by-product of what you do on a daily basis and what you create, the culture you create, the players you recruit. Those things are true, but I thought I could see that during the spring and summer and fall camp that we were doing it better. Now what that led to? I don't know. I certainly know that we're doing it better. I'm doing it better, our staff is doing it better and our players are doing it better. So that's going to give you a chance. What we were three weeks ago is not the team we are today. We don't want to be the team we were this weekend that we were last week. Its every day how do I build and the teams that end up in the end playing for something, continue to get better. They didn't dwell on the losses and they didn't get too high over the wins. We're a team that is still working towards being what we want to be. Like I said after the game the other night, you don't have to be best team in the country, or the best team in your conference every Saturday you just have to be the best team on the field."

Monken says Rice has a very good team.

"We open up this week with our first conference opponent against Rice. They're the defending Conference USA champs and David Bailiff has done a great job there of steadying the program and obviously building it. It's been a tough place to win but he has done a great job of recruiting and he's got a really good coaching staff. They play hard. You can watch them on film and they play hard, they play relentless. You're going to have to play good football to beat them. They don't turn it over unfortunately this year they haven't had a bunch of turnovers and that's hurt them. But one thing you see is a team that plays hard, plays for each other; they won a lot of close games last year which is a reflection of that. We anticipate them coming here playing their best trying to get their first win of the season. Hopefully, we'll be able to build on a little bit of the momentum that we've had here at home during the last two games and fight like heck for a victory Saturday night."

Monken hopes to get everyone on the same page and come up with a winning game plan.

"Well, you want to be balanced. I do believe in trying to create explosive opportunities for your team. Its turnovers, its explosive plays, on both sides, its third down conversions, it's touchdowns in the red zones. If that's how you win, nothing about that says yards.  So those are the statistics that you focus on. Okay, How do we not turn the ball over, how do we get explosive plays, and sometimes that can be tough. How do we get space players in the space? How do we run the football to set up some of those explosive plays, so we are capable of running the ball better, we should've run the ball better there were some things that we left on the table. Again that has to be a part of it. That has always been, when I've been a part of an offense, how do we find a way. I don't care if it was back when we were running power football with Les Miles or we were at Oklahoma state being spread. How do you create explosive plays for your offense, convert on third downs and score your touchdowns without turning it over."

Southern Miss senior defensive lineman Dasman McCullum has been named the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in the Golden Eagles' 21-20 victory over Appalachian State last Saturday.

The Hebron, Miss., native collected a career-best 10 tackles, including two for loss (two yards), a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, a blocked extra point and a quarterback hurry in the contest.

His blocked extra point came with six seconds remaining in the game to help seal the one-point victory. McCullum also stripped a Mountaineer player inside the Golden Eagles' 10 and returned it 29 yards before being tripped up by a teammate in the second half.

It was the second block of McCullum's career - the other coming against Navy in 2011 on a field goal that resulted in a 79-yard touchdown return for the Golden Eagles. He also registered his fifth career forced fumble and second career recovery.

The award was the first for McCullum in his career and the first for the Golden Eagle defense since Marquese Wheaton won the award on Oct. 24, 2011, following the school's 27-3 victory over SMU the previous Saturday.

The Southern Miss Department of Athletics will hold Ray Guy Day this Saturday, in conjunction with its Conference USA opening game against Rice at M.M. Roberts Stadium. Game time is set for 6 p.m.

The celebration will be in recognition of Guy's induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Guy, a graduate of Southern Miss, is the first true punter to receive this honor.

The Ray Guy Day festivities begin at noon as Ray Guy will be on hand from noon- 2 p.m. at the Ogletree House on campus for a meet and greet with fans. It is open to all fans (only one autograph item per person, please).

Guy will then ride in Eagle Walk at 4 p.m., and later will be recognized in a special halftime presentation during the game against the Owls.

In addition, the first 10,000 fans will receive a commemorative poster and wall clings honoring Guy and courtesy of BancorpSouth.

Tickets for the game are available by going online at SouthernMissTickets.com, by calling 1-800-844-TICK (8425) or by visiting the Pat Ferlise Ticket Office weekdays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.