Southern Miss (1-5, 0-2 C-USA) opens as a massive underdog against the UAB Blazers (4-2, 2-0 C-USA). Despite struggling this season, Head Coach Will Hall does not think the Golden Eagles are far away from success.
“Everything in this program is going well except one thing…We are improving,” Hall said. “You can see these young guys getting better. We’re playing so many guys that weren’t playing earlier in the year because they’re young and getting better…we don’t need more three-run homers. We need more singles. We need more guys not swinging at bad pitches.”
After a strong offensive performance against Rice, Southern Miss faltered against UTEP in a 26-13 loss on homecoming. Jake Lange is poised to make his second start at quarterback for the Golden Eagles against a stingy UAB defense that is allowing ten points per game in Conference-USA play. Lange threw two touchdowns and committed two turnovers in the last game.
Following injuries to three quarterbacks, Trey Lowe, Ty Keyes and Jack Walker, Hall decided to add some competition. He announced that Jake Smithhart, a 2017 6A Mississippi State Champion with Pearl, has joined Jake Lange and Tee Webb in the quarterback room.
“We took him out of the student coach roster and got him cleared through compliance last week. He’s our third quarterback now… He’s competing with Tee [Webb] to be the backup,” Hall said.
“[They’re a] really good football team. [They’re] well-coached. I’ve got a lot of respect for Bill Clark. He and I came up in small college football together… A lot of similarities in how they’ve built their program with how we’re building ours. He’s resurrected that place,” Hall said.
UAB’s football program was shut down in late 2014 before returning for the 2017 football season. Since then, the program has been a C-USA powerhouse. The Blazers have made the conference title game each of the last three years including victories in 2018 and 2020. UAB has only suffered two losses this season: a 56-7 loss at top-ranked Georgia and a 36-12 loss against a Liberty team led by top draft prospect quarterback Malik Willis.
A 100-yard interception return led to UAB’s victory last week against FAU. The Blazers sit in third place in the C-USA West while Southern Miss sits in last. UAB leads Southern Miss in every statistical category aside from passing defense.
Despite four straight losses for the Golden Eagles, defensive coordinator Austin Armstrong remains confident in the team’s preparation.
“We’re not going to change how we treat people, how we practice, how we meet or how we do anything regardless if we’re 1-5, 5-1 or if we’re playing the Los Angeles Rams,” Armstrong said.
The game is set to kickoff at 2:30 p.m. at M.M. Roberts Stadium. Spirit Park will open at 9:30 a.m. Saturday with festivities beginning at 11:30 a.m.