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October 2, 2008HATTIESBURG, Miss. - After enjoying a week off, Southern Miss returns to action in a face-off against Conference USA rival, UTEP, this Saturday. Game time is ser for 6 p.m., at Carlisle-Faulkner Field at Roberts Stadium.
The Golden Eagles look to gain their first C-USA win of the season and snap a three-game home C-USA losing streak. The Golden Eagles are 32-11 all-time against C-USA opponents at home. Southern Miss has never had a losing record in C-USA play and has won four championships in the previous 12 seasons. It will be the second of a three-game home game stretch for the Golden Eagles.
This will be the fourth meeting between the two teams, with Southern Miss holding a 2-1 advantage over UTEP. Southern Miss defeated UTEP, 56-30, in El Paso last season. This will be the first trip to Hattiesburg for the Miners. The game will also open the Conference USA road season for the Miners. They are 1-2 in C-USA road openers.
After 96 points scored between the two schools last season, expect another exciting offensive matchup this weekend at The Rock.
Southern Miss currently ranks fourth in C-USA and 24th nationally in total offense. The Miners rank eighth in this category within C-USA and 66th nationally.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Austin Davis currently ranks fifth in C-USA in both total offense and pass efficiency. His counterpart, UTEP sophomore quarterback Trevor Vittatoe, ranks 10th in both categories. Davis also looks to extend his streak of 200-yard passing games to five games. No other Southern Miss quarterback has ever started the season with five consecutive 200-plus yard games, and he is the current record-holder for the most 200-plus yards passing games as a freshman at the school.
Teammate Damion Fletcher currently ranks second in rushing in C-USA and 13th nationally, while UTEP features two backs, Terrell Jackson and James Thomas II, in the C-USA top 10 (8 and 10). Fletcher also has 18 receptions for 166 yards and one receiving touchdown. The junior standout shoots for his 18th-career 100-yard rushing, which would establish a school record for that
Senior tight end Shawn Nelson still leads the team in total receptions and yardage with 24 catches for 284 yards and two touchdowns. Nelson has a pair of 100-yard receiving games this season for the Golden Eagles.
On defensive, junior linebacker Gerald McRath continues to lead all of C-USA in tackles by averaging 11.0 per game. He is tied for ninth nationally with 44. Sophomore defensive back Chico Hunter also ranks fourth in tackles in C-USA with 34, averaging 9.5 per game. Junior defensive back Eddie Hicks completes the trio of Golden Eagles in the top 10 with 31 total tackles, ranking him eighth with a 7.8 per game average.
Sophomore defensive lineman Anthony Gray and senior linebacker Tokumbo Abanikanda lead the conference in fumbles forced with two each. Gray also ranks seventh in Sacks within the conference having tallied 3 solo sacks.
UTEP (1-3, 1-0) defeated the defending Conference USA champion UCF Knights last weekend in El Paso, Texas, 58-13. Senior kicker Jose Martinez kicked the second-longest field goal in NCAA history without the aid of a tee against UCF. They are 26-26 under fifth-year coach Mike Price.
Tickets are still available for purchase at the Ferlise Athletic Ticket Center on the Southern Miss campus from 8-5 p.m., Monday-Friday or by calling 1-800-844-TICK (8425). Tickets also are available for purchase online at SouthernMiss.com. The Ferlise Ticket Center also will be open Saturday from 10-3 p.m., with tickets available at the stadium ticket offices beginning at 3 p.m.