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Golden Eagles still clinging to first place in Conference USA

By By Tony Krausz / assistant sports editor
Oct. 27, 2003
HATTIESBURG University of Southern Mississippi football players have lived by a simple mantra this season Look at the conference standings.
After the Golden Eagles humbling 34-2 loss to the California Golden Bears on the opening game of the year, quarterback Micky D'Angelo reminded reporters where the team's focus was this season.
And the Eagles have certainly looked forward to playing each of their Conference USA brethren in 2003.
USM (4-3, 4-0 C-USA) shares the top spot in the conference standings with undefeated TCU (8-0, 5-0 C-USA), after picking up a 27-6 win over South Florida last Saturday at home.
Following the 0-1 start, the Eagles jumped into Conference USA play with a 17-12 win in Birmingham, Ala., against the University of Alabama at Birmingham on Sept. 4, and the team continued to roll in the C-USA with a 23-6 pasting of the Memphis Tigers at home on Sept. 13.
When the Eagles ventured out of conference again on Sept. 25 against Nebraska, USM stumbled to a 38-14 loss against Nebraska.
The team rebounded the following week with a 22-20 win over Cincinnati to keep its record perfect in conference play, but the Eagles were grounded again on Oct. 11 by an non-conference foe.
Alabama downed USM 17-3 on Oct. 11 to cut USM's overall record to 3-3, but the Eagles kept pointing to the second set of wins and losses on their record the perfect mark in C-USA.
Conference play has been a haven for the Eagles this year, but the team also realizes the importance of getting a win against a non-conference foe.
USM will get a chance on Saturday to claim victory outside the C-USA when the team hosts Louisiana-Lafayette.
Along with possibly getting a non-conference win, the Eagles will also have to strive to fix an offense that has struggled this season against the 2-7 Ragin' Cajuns.
While USM did score the most points it has all season against the Bulls (27), the offense still staled at times.
Three of the Eagles four touchdowns in the win came off of big plays, and only one was produced by the offense.
Sophomore Dustin Almond hit wide receiver Marvin Young for an 80-yard touchdown four seconds into the game, but special teams scored and set up two scores for the Eagles before running back Anthony Harris scored the final touchdown of the game.
USM defensive back Seth Cumbie blocked a South Florida field goal attempt early in the second quarter, and Davis scooped up the loose ball and scored a 61-yard touchdown.
The Eagles' third touchdown came after Luke Johnson nailed a 76-yard punt that trapped the Bulls on their own two-yard line, and the defense forced South Florida to punt.
Young returned the punt to the Bulls' 14, and he hauled in a 10-yard touchdown pass for Almond three plays later.