USM’s mental mistakes continue to plague them as they drop another conference game to UTEP, 35-14. The Golden Eagles turned the ball over a season high five times in the loss. The Golden Eagles cannot seem to get out of their own way.
The game was highlighted by quarterback Cole Weeks, making the start for the injured Nick Mullins; Weeks was never comfortable in the pocket and it showed, throwing three interceptions and getting hit numerous times.
It was the inability by the offensive line to protect Weeks effectively that ultimately lead to the turnovers. UTEP also came in with the game plan to exploit the offensive line and continuously blitzed all night, creating havoc on the Golden Eagle offense.
Early on in the game, USM had a lot of success with the run game, but continuously fell behind and were forced to throw the ball and led to more turnovers.
The blame does not belong squarely on the offensive line however, Weeks made several bad reads, clearly not in rhythm unlike last week where he passed for 300 yards against Louisiana Tech.
Weeks finished with 19/45 for 300 yards with a touchdown and a pair of interceptions in the loss.
Not all was bad for the Golden Eagles in their loss; the defense played their best ball game all year long. The defensive line dominated the UTEP offensive line after getting the first quarter jitters out of the way.
Although Southern Miss gave up 35 points, the defense only allowed 14 points and might have only given up seven, had the Golden Eagles not fumbled the ball inside their own 20. UTEP would capitalize and score a touchdown off the fumble.
The other 21 points would be scored first on a 98-yard kick-off return and then two touchdowns scored by the UTEP defense.
One bright spot for the Golden Eagles included a blocked field goal attempt by Rakeem Nunez-Roches and returned by Cornell Armstrong for a touchdown. It would be the last touchdown scored by the Golden Eagles.
Corey Acosta missed his only field goal attempt, a 41-yarder. USM outgained UTEP in total yards, 402 to 225 and moved the ball effectively until they would eventually turn it over.
After the game was well in hand, the Golden Eagles would show their greatest trait yet. They would drive 70 yards and move in to UTEP territory. The Golden Eagles would turn it over on downs, but showed heart and character by not laying down and giving up.
All in all, had the Golden Eagles not beaten themselves, they had a good chance to beat a very good UTEP team. But the Golden Eagles showed that their own worst enemy is themselves.