USM to take on tough Marshall team

Quarterback Nick Mullens looks downfield for an open receiver during the Homecoming game against North Texas on Saturday, Oct. 26. Jessica King/Printz
Quarterback Nick Mullens looks downfield for an open receiver during the Homecoming game against North Texas on Saturday, Oct. 26.
Jessica King/Printz

Southern Miss is looking to turn things around Saturday Nov. 2 when they travel to Huntington, W. Va. to face the 4-3 Marshall Thundering Herd.

This is the first of two back-to-back away games for the Golden Eagles. Marshall won the previous two meetings against Southern Miss including a 26-20 win that prevented USM from reaching a BCS bowl.

Marshall has been a very hard team to defend led by junior gunslinger Rakeem Cato. “They have a quarterback that can run, but isn’t a runner per se. He’s a guy that’s going to look to throw. He gets outside of the pocket and extends plays. They’ve got good skill players. They’re good up front,” head coach Todd Monken said.

Cato has torched defenses all year long to the tune 1,807 yards and 15 passing touchdowns. His leadership and play has led the Herd’s offense to average 38.0 points per game.

Marshall’s defense has been shaky at times this year. They have been stout mostly, but struggled mightily last week as Mid Tennessee State scored 51 against them.

“Defensively, they’re not afraid to challenge you. They’re not afraid to play you in man, get up on you, put extra guys in the box and get after you. You’re guys have a chance to win one-on-one,” Monken said.
What you see on film is a team that plays hard, plays for each other.”

True freshman Nick Mullens made his first career start last week and showed some encouraging signs in the loss. Mullens is going to have a chance to continue his growth as there will be some big play opportunities when his receivers face man-to-man coverage.

The Golden Eagles will have to do better in the time of possession battle after letting North Texas dominate the ball. The Mean Green won the possession battle 41:51 to 18:09. In order for that to improve, getting the running game started will be imperative.

The Golden Eagles were held to 39 rushing yards and averaged 1.9 yards per rush against North Texas. Running back Jalen Richard, whose 225 yards leads the team, is facing a defense that gives up 145 rushing yards per game.

The Golden Eagles’ defense is coming off a game where they caused four turnovers, but still gave up 55 points. The coaches lit a fire inside of the Golden Eagles defense during the halftime break as they came out and forced three consecutive turnovers.

“We had a stretch where we had two opportunities in the game to take advantage of the first two turnovers. One was in the first half and we missed a field goal. The other was to start the second half (which ended with a touchdown) and that was good to see.” Monken said.

The defense will have to bring the same intensity and stay disciplined against Marshall’s offense that averages 450 yards per game. The offense has to capitalize on turnovers and find a way in the end zone rather than settle for field goals. If they do not, USM will be in for a long day this Saturday, Nov. 2.