"The biggest thing this week is we're trying not to peak too early (emotionally) because it is such a big game for us, such an emotional game," said Cougar head coach Dana Dimel. "We're trying to have very sharp, fundamental practices without too much emotion used up in practice. "When you have a big game like this, it's easy to get too emotional during practice. We're going to go out tomorrow and have a nice short, crisp practice and save all of our emotions for the game."
The Cougars are still riding high following an emotional, all-out effort 33-30 triple overtime win at Memphis last weekend, a victory which improved them to 2-1 in conference play. With a win this Saturday over the Golden Eagles, who currently hold a 2-0 record in the conference, the Cougars will improve to 3-1 in C-USA and, depending upon the outcome of East Carolina's contest against UAB, be tied with East Carolina for the conference lead. But as Dimel and his staff have stressed all week, the Southern Miss' national ranking is not the issue.
"They're number one in our conference, and that's the most important ranking to me," continued Dimel. "We kind of overlook the 14th in the country because they're number one in conference and we can still control who's going to win the (conference) championship. We still have that in front of us. That they are in front of us in the conference is more important to us than them being 14th in the country."
And in order to defeat the defensively-dominant Southern Miss team, the Cougars' game plan involves three main points: 1) eliminating turnovers; 2) stopping the Golden Eagles running game; and 3) protecting the Houston quarterback.
"They're general strength is they have a great defense and have been great at turning the football and forcing turnovers," said Dimel. "So we need to stop those two main things, and protect our passer."