Through three games, Southern Miss has taken strides to gain respectability in the college football ranks. The only loss that Southern Miss has taken so far was to in-state rival Mississippi State. After that crucial game to kick off the season, the Golden Eagles have been on the uptick.
Southern Miss avenged their loss at home against the Bulldogs with a 52-6 beatdown against Austin Peay. They followed up that effort with a 56-50 road win over Texas State. With those two wins, Southern Miss has the confidence that they need to take on their next opponent—Nebraska.
“You have to have enough playmakers to make plays,” Monken said. “The bottom line is that this is a different team with a different feel.”
In the past two contests with Nebraska, it has not been close. In 2012, the Golden Eagles fell to the Cornhuskers 49-20 in Ellis Johnson’s 0-12 season. In 2013, Southern Miss again traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska, but this time losing by an even wider margin 56-13.
“We went up there a couple of years ago and didn’t put our best foot forward, but we are significantly better now than we were then,” Monken said.
Southern Miss is definitely a better team now. It’s games like these when teams prove their worth.
Quarterback Nick Mullens is averaging 306.3 yards passing in the three games to start the season. Mullens has shown poise and a comfortability behind a revamped offensive line that’s now giving him time to progress through his reads. Although Mullens appears to have reached a new level, Monken still stresses the importance of getting better as a team.
“Part of growing as a team is correcting those mistakes and moving on and getting better. This is another measuring stick for our program as every game is, but this is a very good program with a very good staff.” – Monken
The offensive line will have their hands full against Nebraska, especially coming off of a weak front against Texas State. Nebraska has held their three opponents this season to a total of 283 yards rushing. Conference USA Offensive Player of the Week Jalen Richard will have his hands full in this contest.
Southern Miss will have to prove that they have grown up. Win or lose, Southern Miss cannot leave Nebraska with a demoralized attitude that carries over into its home game against NorthTexas.
“No matter if you win or lose, you have to look at the game and assess what you did well and what you didn’t do so well,” Monken said. “Part of growing as a team is correcting those mistakes and moving on and getting better.”
Monken has stressed the same lessons over and over again. Part of his philosophy is the importance of always striving to get better and never settling.
“We control our effort, our energy and our attention to detail,” Monken said. “I don’t know if we will ever be perfect but if you strive for perfection then we could be really good out there and we can be better out there (like) we were on Saturday.”
Although this year is different for the Golden Eagles, it will take a perfect effort from them to get the win. Nebraska does sit at 1-2, but they had close calls at Miami and at home versus BYU, two very good programs. The Cornhuskers will not lie down for Southern
Miss and they are looking for respect in the tough Big 10 conference.
“It’s an opportunity to see how far we have come and a measuring stick against a good football team and coaching staff,” Monken said. “I hope our guys don’t look at or approach it any differently.”
Kickoff is at 11 a.m.