HATTIESBURG, Miss. - The Southern Miss football team took to the practice field briefly on Tuesday evening before heavy rains and lightning prompted the team to move the workout inside. The team practiced for just over two hours on the basketball courts at the Payne Center on campus in preparation for the first home game of the season against Alcorn State on Saturday, Sept. 6.
"We got out there (on the practice field) and started going through the walk through," head coach Todd Monken said of Tuesday's practice. "Lightning started first and then the rain came. It was hard to tell when we would get back out there so we went indoors. We got a lot of our team work done.
"A couple of weeks ago, we had a similar situation and we waited it out," Monken added. "It's hard to know how long it will last and the (weather) report said that it could be up to two hours (today). So we thought, let's go over there and get the team work in so that is what we did. I thought the team handled it pretty well for the noise and the acoustics in the gym. We got some stuff done."
The team continued to work on improving and moving forward. Monken was happy with the energy and enthusiasm his team practiced with. With limited space in the Payne Center, the team worked on implementing plays for the upcoming game with the Braves. One area of emphasis was the running game, especially short-yardage situations.
One of the talented newcomers who emerged on Saturday was freshman running back Ito Smith. The rookie tallied 43 yards on the ground, six yards in the air and added another 84 yards on kickoff returns for a team-best 133 all-purpose yards in his Golden Eagle debut. Smith lowered his shoulder and grounded out some hard yards when the team needed them against the Bulldogs.
"It felt like we could run it and that was against a really good front," Monken stated of last Saturday's game against Mississippi State. "I don't care who we play, we have to feel like we can score on them. I have seen it in practice and I saw some things on Saturday. We have to do it better. Players have to do it better. We have to play better. It is going to come. I know it is. I see too much talent."
The team returns to practice on Wednesday afternoon. Plans are to practice at the Joe P. Park Practice Facility, however the Golden Eagles may have to adjust their schedule. With inclement weather a possibility throughout the week, Monken commented on what his team has to do to prepare for the home opener on Saturday.
"We have to figure out how to have a great week of practice and take another step forward," Monken said. "We keeping taking steps forward. We have to do it better. We have to play better. We have to coach better. We have to see it Saturday night. We are excited to play here. We will play better here. I expect us to play well Saturday night."
The game at The Rock is slated for 6:00 p.m. and following the game there will be a fireworks show. In addition, the 1999 Conference USA Championship team will celebrate its 15th anniversary during the game. At halftime, the Pride of Mississippi and the Alcorn State Band will both perform.
Tickets for the 2014 Southern Miss football season can be purchased by going online at SouthernMissTickets.com, by phoning 1-800-844-Tick (8425) or visiting the Pat Ferlise Ticket Office from 8 a.m., until 5 p.m., weekdays.
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