Caption: Southern Miss player Rakeem Nunez-Roches tackles Alcorn State player Arron Baker during the home game Sept. 9. The USM defense prepares for the Homecoming game against Marshall Saturday. – Susan Broadbridge
Southern Miss is coming off a 35-14 loss to UTEP in a game that was a lot closer than the final score indicated. However, the Golden Eagles continue to fall behind in the turnover battle and it has cost them several games.
“Every time we would get something going and get to midfield, we would turn it over or find a way to not give ourselves a chance,” said head coach Todd Monken.
The Golden Eagles have grown a lot over the course of the season and will need to grow more with a huge task on Saturday night.
Offensively, they have been a lot more consistent with their run game, an aspect Monken hopes will continue going forward to take some pressure off of Weeks.
“There is a belief in Cole,” Monken said. “Some of the mistakes he made are because he just hasn’t played. Did we probably put too much on his plate? Yes. Did UTEP have something to do with that? Yes. The mistakes that we made collectively around Cole didn’t help.”
The team has seemed to rally around Weeks and the heart he had at the end of the UTEP game and they will need the same attitude going into their biggest game yet.
Their opponent, the No. 23 Marshall Thundering Herd, got another win, 35-16, over FAU extending their streak to eight games.
The Thundering Herd are led by Heisman-hopeful quarterback Rakeem Cato and is one of the most dangerous dual-threat quarterbacks in college football. Monken said the much-improved Golden Eagle defense will need to play their best game yet, to slow down Cato.
“The threat (to run) is always there,” Monken said. “With him, it is getting him to the ground because when he moves, he looks to throw. That is where those guys are dangerous.”
Cato has over 2,000 yards passing with 20 touchdown passes and only six interceptions on the year to go along with 250 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
The USM defense seems to be up to the task as they have improved every week this season and are now one of the best units in Conference USA. They were led last week by the great play from their defensive linemen, especially Rakeem Nunez-Roches.
He plugged holes all night, not allowing the UTEP running backs to get anything going. He will need to do the same against Marshall and also provide a pass rush up the middle on Cato, not allowing him to step up in the pocket to throw.
Offensively, the Golden Eagles will look to run the ball more, but still let Weeks air it out. Marshall, despite how good their offense has been, is suspect on defense, especially in the secondary. If the offense does not hurt itself with turnovers, they should be able to score with Marshall.
They will need to contain Cato and play turnover, mistake free football in order to pull the upset. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Saturday.