HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Marshall defensive players showed a different focus Monday during media interviews, and that was understandable. They did not expect to put that much stress on the home side of the scoreboard at Middle Tennessee.
They're not pleased.
"The defense, we shouldn't have a game like that," said linebacker Jermaine Holmes. "We should have come out focused. Now we learned from that mistake - you can't sleep on any team. Most of us were sleeping on Middle Tennessee.
"Southern Miss, I know they haven't won a game, but you can't sleep on those teams, especially at this level."
The Thundering Herd defense suffered one more indignity in the aftermath of its 51-49 loss Thursday - Blue Raiders quarterback Logan Kilgore was named Conference USA's offensive player of the week.
Kilgore earned the honor fair and square, throwing for 277 yards and four touchdowns. More important, he led the Raiders on a 79-yard drive over the final 2:29, culminating in the game-winning 9-yard pass to Tavarres Jefferson.
How well the fifth-year senior handles defensive pressure couldn't be determined in that game. Marshall pass-rushers barely made it to the same area code, much less registered a sack.
"That's tough," said cornerback Monterius Lovett. "You can't give a quarterback a lot of time to throw the football. You do, he's going to make something happen."
The Herd (4-3, 2-1) will try to turn that around at noon Saturday when basement resident Southern Mississippi visits Joan C. Edwards Stadium in a game airing on CBS Sports Network. The Golden Eagles (0-7, 0-3) are mired in a 19-game losing streak.
Sacks will be among the many points of emphasis on the Herd defense. The Herd has plunged to seventh in the 14-team C-USA with 15 sacks, thanks to having just one in the last two games. Linebacker Neville Hewitt had that sack at Florida Atlantic.
That means the defensive line has been skunked. The last sack from a lineman came from Brandon Sparrow in the second quarter Oct. 5 game against Texas-San Antonio.
"We work on that every day, with coach [J.C.] Price and coach [Sean] Cronin," said defensive end Alex Bazzie. "You're not making an impact as a defensive line if you're not getting to the quarterback. If the D-line can get to the quarterback and make him uncomfortable, that can change the game around. We kind of saw that the last two games, where we had tight situations at the end of the game.
"As a D-line, we have to help out our linebackers and secondary. They're out there covering and they can't cover for long. With us not getting to the quarterback, we're leaving them out to dry. We feel bad about that, been really down about it, but we're still preparing, attacking it like it's our last game."