He did not know how close he was to the record. It was just another game for him against a Marshall team that had beaten Southern Miss the past five meetings.
Every year since 2005, ranging from scores such as 61-13 in 2013 and as close as 26-20 in 2011. This year, had to be different.
“It feels great, not going to lie,” said senior quarterback Nick Mullens. “Marshall has had our number the past couple of years. I have a lot of respect for the game. Definitely a rival. These players are really happy they got the victory.”
Nick Mullens was just 136 yards shy of the all-time Southern Miss record on the night, with only Austin Davis in front of him for the milestone.
With an 11-yard pass to Ito Smith in the second quarter down to the Marshall 30, Southern Miss moved into enemy territory before a Mullens fumble gave it back to Marshall.
“That’s just bad luck,” Mullens said. “My mindset didn’t change. If I could ust do my best to keep my energy high, I just do my best to keep having fun. I tried to bring that energy tonight [for my teammates].”
But even as the game kept going, Mullens’ record stood above the rest. Pass after pass, Mullens’ record kept on climbing as the record grew in his favor.
His favor is one that led Southern Miss down to the finish line, going into the game and winning 24-14 in homecoming fashion, as the game was much tighter than anticipated.
“Nick [Mullens] is what you see,” said senior defensive lineman Dylan Bradley. “He’s just nonchalant. That’s what we love about him. That’s why he’s the leader of the team. I didn’t know he broke the record until after the game. Congratulations to his career and his legacy that he leaves here. We go as far as he goes.”
Through the midst of the changing in coaching staff and receiving core among other things that have changed his environment in Hattiesburg, Mullens has been the steady arm that has led the Golden Eagles to a C-USA West Division crown last year and hoping for bigger aspirations this year.
“The reason I committed to Southern Miss is because I knew they were going to win,” Mullens said. “Those years of winning are back. Every day, we’re writing our legacy.”
This game, like the school record and like so many other factors in the Golden Eagles’ journey rise to prominence, was there for the taking as both teams were held in a 10-7 deadlock from the second to the beginning of the fourth quarter.
But, through the resiliency that he says that he has learned in the four years that he has been here, Mullens just had the trust in his teammates and gave them a chance, specifically on the four-yard touchdown pass to receiver Allenzae Staggers that put the Golden Eagles up 17-7 in the fourth quarter.
“Just kind of give him a chance,” Mullens said. “Sometimes, luck goes on your side. If you can trust your playmakers that they can make a big play, you have a chance for some success. Big time players step up in big time situations.”
Even when the wheels change around him, Mullens has always been consistent and stuck to his football instincts. It may not have been the prettiest game for him as he went 22-of-40 passing for 300 yards and a score, but it got the job done. That is the most he can ask for.
“I’m just glad we won,” Mullens said. “It definitely wasn’t the easiest. Pretty exciting but a stressful game. We kind of knew we were the only ones stopping ourselves. No football game is going to be absolutely perfect.”
No game is perfect for Mullens, and neither is the journey.