Thursday, September 04, 2008

Special Guest Enemy: a Q n' A with Lanny Mixon of Big Gold Nation

Time once again to fetch our information on Auburn's next opponent directly from the source, in this case Lanny Mixon, publisher of Southern Miss Rivals site Big Gold Nation. Lanny was kind enough to take a little bit of time out of his schedule to answer a few questions and help us understand what Auburn's going to be facing Saturday. The JCCW's questions below are in bold, Lanny's answers in quotes. Enjoy.

1. 633 total yards, 427 rushing yards, 30 first downs, 51 points! When was the last time USM had an offensive explosion like that and how giddy are Golden Eagle fans at having an attack with this kind of potential after the slow-and-steady Bowers years?

"In a word, never. The 633 total yards and 427 rushing yards are both new single game records for the Eagles. Southern Miss scored 50+ against UTEP last year, but was the beneficiary of several short fields. This new focus on offense is a breath of fresh air for the Eagle Nation."

2. Having seen it in action, how would you describe Fedora's offense? With a single back and a no-huddle philosophy, it seems like it would be similar to what our own Tony Franklin is doing at Auburn, but what other details could you give us?

"The offensive game plan is similar between the two schools. It will be interesting to see how the teams play against each other, Louisiana (-Lafayette--ed.) ran a very similar spread offense as well. This will be the second week that Southern Miss has faced a run-heavy spread."

3. Austin Davis had a pretty good game statistically for a redshirt freshman QB making his first-ever collegiate start: 14-21, 206 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT. What does Davis bring to the table and what does he take off of it?

"Davis is probably the most well-rounded QB that the Eagles have had since Reggie Collier. In addition to his passing stats, Davis ran for 63 yards on 12 carries and two touchdowns. (Probably should have noticed that.--ed.) Although he doesn't have blazing speed, he's very elusive and has good field vision on the move. His biggest negative is that he'll be playing in his second game ever at the college level."

4. Auburn fans should know about RB Damion Fletcher (21 carries, 222 yards, 2 TDs) and stud WR recruit DeAndre Brown ("the only five-star recruit in C-USA history," 4 catches for 92 and a TD), but who else amongst the Golden Eagle backs and receivers will the Tiger defense need to keep an eye on?

"Hybrid pass catcher Shawn Nelson is a special player, 6-foot-5, 245-pounds. Will line up at TE or in the Slot. Is a very difficult match-up. Bigger and more physical than most DB's and faster than most LB's. Junior transfer Bubba Kirksey ran for more than 100 yards backing up Fletcher against UL."

5. Turning to the other side of the ball, Louisiana-Lafayette did rush for 263 yards and averaged 6.1 yards a carry. Why were the Ragin' Cajuns so successful on the ground and do you think we'll see more eight- or nine-men in the box formations from USM on Saturday?

"All four of Southern Miss' starting defensive linemen were making their first collegiate start on Saturday. There's some talent there but they've not seen many live bullets. UL's QB Michael Desormeaux is one of the best running QB's in the country. He opened a lot of options for the Cajuns. Chris Todd will have to prove to the Eagles that he can hurt them through the air."

6. Plain and simple: what's the single biggest key to a win for Southern Miss? What's the one thing they must do to pull out a victory?

"They have to score more points than Auburn to win the game. (?--ed.) Key defensive stops are essential for the Eagles. Eliminating the big play, don't get hurt on 1st down."

7. Lastly, what are the expectations for Southern Miss as they approach this game? After the fireworks last week, how seriously are the Golden Eagle fans taking their chances for an upset?

"It's a new day at Southern Miss. The Eagles have won at Auburn in the past with less talent. Southern Miss head coach Larry Fedora expects to win each game, and the players are buying into his way of thinking. It's an uphill battle, and it won't be easy, but don't underestimate this group of hungry Eagles."

Thanks again to Lanny and if you're a Rivals subscriber, Big Gold Nation is thattaway.

A quick tiny bit of reaction from the JCCW:

--Desormeaux--who is widely agreed to be every bit as good as Lanny claims--finished 9-20 for 98 yards and two picks in the air, but rushed 16 times for 146 yards. Take your pick: maybe this is just a function of Desormeaux not being able to get it done in the air and with USM focused on helping the young d-line, Todd will have more success. But maybe it's that USM is simply a lot better at defending the pass than the run--and if that's the case, um, I hope (again) Burns is healthy enough to lend a hand if need be.

--Boy, doesn't sound like Lanny's missing ol' Jeff Bowers very much, is he? Reading SMQ after Bowers' removal, I always got the sense that there was probably more faux outrage from the national media than there was genuine outrage within the USM fanbase.

--Nice to know ULL gave USM some experience in dealing with a ground-based spread. Excuse me while dance a jig.

--I sure don't blame USM fans for their optimism--if our new offense had had the kind of day theirs did, we'd be on the horn with our travel agent about accommodations in Atlanta as we speak--but Lanny also helps illustrate that this remains a very young team: new quarterback, new No. 1 receiver, new defensive front. Hard to say they played very jittery last week, though. We'll see.

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