USM looks to get over .500 for first time in three years

Redshirt senior Corey Acosta kicks one of his four field goals gainst Alabama in Tuscaloosa last Saturday.  - Susan Broadbridge
Redshirt senior Corey Acosta kicks one of his four field goals gainst Alabama in Tuscaloosa last Saturday. – Susan Broadbridge

USM will host Appalachian State Saturday night for their second home game of the season.

USM is undefeated at home and looks to stay perfect after their week-four matchup. USM is coming off a loss to third-ranked Alabama, after playing better than most thought they would. Appalachian State is coming off an early bye week.

The Mountaineers are a new member of the Sun Belt Conference after being bumped up from the FCS to the FBS. They hold a 1-1 record, with both games ending in blowout fashion. Week one they traveled to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan, but lost 52-14. In week two, they traveled to play Campbell and had a dominating performance, winning 66-0.

Appalachian State runs a spread offense with a dual-threat quarterback at the helm. Quarterbacks who possess the ability to run have haunted the Golden Eagle defense over the last two weeks as they have allowed a combined 202 rushing yards and two touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks.

“They have two good young running backs, Terrance Upshaw and Marcus Cox,” said head coach Todd Monken. “They are both powerful guys who are quick. Their quarterback is athletic. He really does a good job of decision-making. We have to do a great job of eliminating eye violations, putting them in passing situations and try to get after them.”

The Mountaineers are a team that is built to run the ball so USM will need to stop them on early downs and force quarterback Kameron Bryant to throw the ball.

Appalachian State has yet to face an offense that is as fast-paced as USM’s. For the first time this season, USM will face a 3-4 defensive front. Senior middle linebacker Brandon McGowan is a player the offense has to key on when making their calls pre-snap.

“We worked on it in training camp, it is not difficult; it is just different and we have to communicate,” Monken said regarding the Mountaineers’ 3-4 defense.

Last week was the second consecutive week USM did not commit a turnover. Nick Mullens seems to mature with every snap and the coaching staff is putting more trust in him and is letting him throw the ball around.

Mullens has thrown 70 passes over the last two weeks without an interception. Also, the running backs have not fumbled in their last 50 attempts. The Golden Eagles will need to control the ball and the clock to keep the Mountaineers’ offense, ranked 32nd in points scored, off the field.

Southern Miss has had some trouble finding the end zone so far this season, relying on kicker Corey Acosta more than Monken would like to.

“We have to score touchdowns,” Monken said. “We have attempted 10 field goals. That is embarrassing.”

However, it has allowed Acosta to show off the strides he has made since becoming the full-time kicker. In each of the last two games, Acosta has nailed a career-high four field goals.

Appalachian State’s style of play on defense makes the susceptible to the big play, allowing Southern Miss to have chances to turn their red zone troubles around.

This will be the first true test for USM as the Mountaineers are the first team they have faced that they matchup with nearly equally on paper.