HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) — Southern Mississippi's early-season schedule was every bit as difficult as advertised.
But now the Golden Eagles (0-4) return home to face Florida International (0-4) in the Conference USA opener for both teams. Southern Miss has a 16-game losing streak dating back to last season, which is currently the longest in the nation.
The Golden Eagles have certainly played a quality schedule. They've lost three straight road games to Nebraska, Arkansas and Boise State.
"As we all say adversity doesn't build character, it reveals it," Southern Miss coach Todd Monken said. "It reveals what you're about. It reveals your ability and your staying power to continue to fight. And that's hard when you're not having success."
Monken has a reputation as an accomplished offensive mind, but points have been hard to find. The Golden Eagles are averaging just 9.5 points per game this season while giving up more than 40. Quarterback Allan Bridgford has thrown for 875 yards and three touchdowns, but also nine interceptions.
"I think we've got a good football team," Monken said. "I know we haven't shown it. I think we have good coaches. It's hard to assess where we're at. I think we're going to have a better idea in the next seven or eight weeks where we're at as a football team because we'll get a chance to play four of the next eight at home."
Florida International has been even worse, averaging just 5.8 points per game. The Panthers have had a week off to recover from a 72-0 loss to Louisville.
Here are five things to watch as Southern Miss and FlU open their Conference USA schedule:
FINISH DRIVES: Southern Miss has moved the ball well at times this season, but too many drives have ended with interceptions, fumbles or botched special teams plays. The Golden Eagles have actually thrown for more yards than their opponents this season, but are averaging more than three turnovers per game.
BRIDGFORD'S PLAY: Southern Miss senior quarterback Allan Bridgford, who transferred from California before the season began, has thrown for 875 yards and three touchdowns, but also nine interceptions. He's shown flashes of promise, but needs to cut down on the bad decisions.
GET SOME CONFIDENCE: It's been a rough stretch for Southern Miss, which lost a close opener to Texas State before being blown out on the road against Nebraska, Arkansas and Boise State. The Golden Eagles are trying to end a 16-game losing streak that dates back to the beginning of last season.
WHO WILL SCORE THE POINTS: Southern Miss is averaging just 9.5 points per game this season, but that's nearly double Florida International's 5.8 average. The Panthers are averaging just 2.8 yards per play this season and are coming off a 72-0 loss to Louisville.
WET CONDITIONS: It could be a sloppy game in Hattiesburg, thanks to approaching Tropical Storm Karen. Florida International is playing in its inaugural Conference USA game.