Golden Eagles Look To Avoid Letdown at OSU

Thursday, September 21st 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) _ Southern Mississippi's victory over Alabama last week won't seem so significant if the Golden Eagles get ambushed by Oklahoma State.

Even with their surprisingly easy win over Alabama, the 22nd-ranked Golden Eagles (1-1) could find themselves below .500 if they arrive in Stillwater, Okla., on Saturday with a hangover from happy week in Hattiesburg.

``I think it's going to be a good challenge for us to come out and play well this week, and try to build on some of the things we did well and correct our mistakes,'' Southern Miss quarterback Jeff Kelly said.

The 21-0 victory over Alabama last Saturday was cause for celebration for a program that had grown accustomed to coming up just short in its biggest games.

Facing the Cowboys (2-0) for the first time is a different type of challenge for the Golden Eagles after opening the season against Tennessee and Alabama.

``I think it tests the maturity of your football team,'' coach Jeff Bower said. ``I think it tests your senior leadership.''

Saturday's game will be the Golden Eagles' third straight on the road. Unlike the first two, it's not on national television, there won't be an enormous crowd, and Southern Miss is expected to win.

Sounds like a recipe for a letdown, but the Golden Eagles say they treat every game the same.

``We prepare for Oklahoma State just like we prepared for Alabama,'' safety Chad Williams said. ``We don't look past any games or look forward to any games.''

Williams' 10 tackles were part of dominant performance by the Southern Miss defense against the Crimson Tide. It was the type of performance that has become typical of Bower's defenses.

Southern Miss allowed just 217 yards against Alabama, and Ray Walls provided the game's first touchdown with a 54-yard interception return.

Most importantly, the quick and sure-tackling Golden Eagles limited Alabama's elusive wide receiver Freddie Milons to just 43 yards on seven catches.

Southern Mississippi's offense is still a work in progress, as the Golden Eagles managed just 210 yards against Alabama. A developing offensive line has allowed 13 sacks in two games, and Southern Miss has run for just 122 yards.

Oklahoma State didn't have any offensive problems against Tulsa and Southwest Texas, averaging 402 yards per game.

But Cowboys coach Bob Simmons knows those stats don't mean much considering how much tougher the competition will be Saturday.

``I like our skill on offense but our execution has got to be flawless,'' he said. ``The mistakes we've made the last couple of games we cannot make in this kind of ball game.''