Previewing Northwestern State with Demons’ play-by-play caller Patrick Netherton.


NSU 10 Zach Patterson

Photo Courtesy of Northwestern State Athletics

HATTIESBURG, MS – After dropping the first two games in the 2022 football season, Southern Miss returns home with a favorable matchup against FCS opponent Northwestern State. The Demons and the Golden Eagles are no strangers to each other. They have met 22 times, with an even split of 11-11 in matchups.

Southern Miss is undergoing some work at the quarterback position and, to no surprise to many, the Golden Eagles will start Zach Wilcke at QB on Saturday night against the Demons.

I sat down with Northwestern State’s play-by-play caller Patrick Netherton to preview and discuss Northwestern State football.

Q: Northwestern State is in the same spot as Southern Miss- 0-2 to start the season. What do you think the NSU players, coaches, and fans are expecting in this matchup?

Patrick: “The players and coaches are kind of in lockstep- this is all pre-conference. You don’t like where you’re at [and] you don’t like being 0-2. But at the same time, the sky isn’t falling, and the season is not over with, whereas for a lot of fans, it’s, ‘here we go again.’ The Demons have not had a winning season in a long time, so the feeling is that here’s just another non-winning season. But the players aren’t buying into that, the players are of the belief that ‘Hey, we’re two games in, and you learn your lessons.’ Then you go and play Southern Miss, who is also unhappy with where they are. You take these games for what they are; they are lessons and teachable, and when you turn around next week for [when] conference play begins, that’s where you want to get focused in and see results from these first three weeks.”

Q: NSU’s QB Miles Fallin is six-five, 220. Could you talk about his skill set and what Southern Miss fans can expect from him on Saturday night?

Patrick: “He has an interesting story. He was at Kansas; he was there for five years and never started a game or threw a pass. [He has] pretty amazing perseverance. He leaves Kansas and comes to Northwestern State, [so] this really is his rookie season. He’s been around for a long time, he’s a six-year quarterback, but he’s never thrown a pass in a game. This is a guy [that] has got tons and tons of knowledge, he knows what he’s doing, but he just hasn’t experienced it during the game. I think you’re seeing some incremental growth… It’s a growing process for this kid, he’s big, and he was the leading rusher versus Grambling. Even though he is big, he’s got some mobility.”

Q: Southern Miss’s strength has been their defense. How does the Demons’ offense matchup against the Golden Eagles’ defense?

Patrick: “It’s hard to say, and that’s the thing that’s kind of mysterious about this team. We still don’t know what the offense is going to look like. They have moments of success, but they haven’t had sustained success. They have some drives here and there, but we haven’t seen anything that is of real sustainability. We know Southern Miss has a good defense, you saw what they did against Miami and Liberty. What does the NSU offense look like especially considering the fact they are working on their second coordinator in a month? Their offensive coordinator they brought in resigned and just took a job in the XFL. Now the offensive coordinator, who’s done it before, he’s called plays [is] Beau Blair. He’s also the offensive line coach. The guy knows what he’s doing, it’s just a matter of the guys need to get used to him, and he needs to get used to them. The question is: when does the light switch go on?”

Q: Who are some players you can name of NSU’s offense whom Southern Miss fans can expect to see heavily involved in the game?

Patrick: “You’re going to see Scooter Adams, who is the running back. He ran for nearly 1,000 yards a couple of years ago and got injured last season. He hasn’t gotten on track yet, but he’s a weapon. If he gets in the open field, you’re not catching him. On the outside is a guy named Javon Antonio- [a] big, tall, thick receiver [with] good hands. You’ll see him, especially down in the red zone. They like to throw the ball to him and let him go win a one-on-one matchup. There is a whole bevy of new receivers that are here. Zach Patterson, who wears No. 10, he’s a good shifty fast young receiver. You’re going to see some new young guys who can do it- the question is [if] the offensive line [can] hold up.”

Q: Southern Miss will be starting true freshman Zach Wilcke at QB. What can USM expect from the Demon’s defense against the Golden Eagles’ offense?

Patrick: “Northwestern State defensively is aggressive. They’re going to be in your face, they want to come after you [and] want to get after the quarterback. What we have seen from NSU is by in large, the big plays have been what has hurt them, especially in that Grambling game. They gave up three or four passes over 70 yards [and] they gave up a run over 60. The problem with a defense that’s so aggressive is when there is a mental breakdown, it results in a big play. Unfortunately, against Grambling, all of those big plays went for touchdowns. But three of the four quarters against Grambling, they basically held them to nothing- in the second half, they had 24 yards of offense. You would think they will try to disguise some things [and] try to get after the young quarterback. Weston Glaser’s defense is predicated on getting in the QB’s head [and] making him feel the pressure even when it’s not there. That’s what he wants, but the Demons haven’t gotten much pressure on the QB in two games, so we will see if that starts to ramp up a little bit.”

Q: What does Northwestern State have to do on Saturday to keep the game close or even potentially pull the upset?

Patrick: “You know it’s interesting, NSU is one of the top teams in the FCS in beating FBS opponents. A lot of that is beating teams like ULM, Southern Miss [and] they beat TCU back in ’01. It’s like anything else in these types of games- you need turnovers [and] you need short fields. You really have to have superior play on your side. You’ll need the bigger opponent to struggle a little bit. Is it possible? Sure. Do I think it’s going to happen? Not likely. But again, you never know. I think that the components at Northwestern State are there to pull an upset [but] we just haven’t seen anything [come together] yet. It just takes time. While I think they have the capability to beat Southern Miss, I’m going to need to see something out of them that we haven’t seen- force a bunch of turnovers, confuse a young quarterback, find a way to slow down the super back offense, make some big plays on offense, have a defender make a mistake. Do that, and you can pull this upset. I firmly believe that Northwestern State has the talent and ability to do it [but] they just haven’t [come together] yet, and I don’t know if that will be the case on Saturday. Fingers crossed, obviously for us.”

Southern Miss is heavily favored Saturday and will kick off at 6 pm from Hattiesburg. You can stream the game on ESPN+.