The Southern Miss offense has been inconsistent this season.
In the first quarter of contests, Southern Miss has been outscored 45-41. Many fans may feel that Southern Miss is a team that “starts slow.” Statistically, they are correct.
“Things tend to work out if you don’t panic,” said Offensive Coordinator Shannon Dawson. “We just [keep] doing what we were doing.”
The Golden Eagles employed a diverse set of new faces on the field this season. Players such as George Payne, Marquise Ricard, Allenzae Staggers and Isaiah Jones saw the field for Southern Miss frequently this season after not having much playtime last year.
“There are certain frustrations and growing pains with new guys,” Dawson said. “You’ve got to have a certain level of patience, but you’ve got to have a certain level of push, too.”
Dawson saw his offense average 41.8 points per game, with the first quarter alone yielding 8.2 points.
With the amount of new faces on the offense comes a sense of unpredictability. This is evidenced by Allenzae Staggers’ school record 292 receiving yards on just six catches.
“I didn’t call those plays specifically because I knew [Staggers] was going to get it,” Dawson said. “It’s just the ball has a way of finding you at times. I think when you’re making plays, it has a way of finding you even more.”
In the first four games of the season, junior running back Ito Smith had been the focal point of the offense, averaging 135 rushing yards a game. With Smith being emphasized by the Rice defense, the receiving core and senior quarterback Nick Mullens had a record-setting night, heading to a 591-yard, four touchdown perfor- mance by the senior.
Mullens is no stranger to setting records as a Golden Eagle, but his core is new to the scene at Southern Miss. But, that may be a good thing.
“It’ll make it a little harder for people to pinpoint what we’re doing,” Dawson said. “We need people to step up and make plays. I think ultimately, the more people we have to step up and make plays, the harder it is on the defense that’s playing us.”
The playmakers on the offensive side of the ball may vary from game to game. One game, it may be Staggers. The next, it could be junior running back George Payne, who is returning this year from a knee injury.
The playmaker could end up being D.J. Thompson when USM plays against LSU, who is averag- ing 40.4 yards a game.
Dawson said he would like for Thompson to have a bigger role in the offense.
“I’ve never thought of balanced [as] being 50-50,” Dawson said. “I’ve always thought of balanced as being spreading the ball to a number of people – to where people can’t pinpoint who is going to get [the ball] or who is game planned [to get the ball].”
Dawson said he believes the football will find you if you are a playmaker, and you just keep making the necessary plays to stay on the field.
Last year the Golden Eagles had Mike Thomas, Jalen Richard and Casey Martin make up the offensive production. The new faces will have to prepare, while patience will be key for Southern Miss’ offense to ignite on all cylinders.
“I honestly think that we have multiple guys out there that can have a game like that.,” Dawson said. “I think we just got to keep giving them opportunities.”
This Saturday, the Golden Eagles will travel to Texas-San Antonio.