There were many questions on Saturday when Southern Miss lost 55-32 to Texas-San Antonio.
There were less answers during the week leading up to USM’s LSU visit this subsequent Saturday.
“All of our goals are still ahead of us,” said senior quarterback Nick Mullens who threw for 378 yards against the Roadrunners. “We’re good, real focused and on a mission.We have a great opportunity to go out and play against LSU this weekend. After that, it’s all a dive into conference play. Five game playoff — you win and you’re in.”
Southern Miss is used to slow starts, putting up three points in the first quarters against Rice and Texas-El Paso, only to finish with 44 and 34, respectively. In the record-setting comeback against Kentucky in the opening contest of the year, Southern Miss fell behind 21-7 by the end of the first quarter, only to come back and win 44-35.
But against UTSA, this team was not the same.
The 28-0 hole that USM had put itself in was one they could not shake off. Southern Miss outgained UTSA in passing and total offensive yards, had less penalties and led in time of possession.
But, the Roadrunners took advantage of another Nick Mullens interception towards the end of the contest. UTSA had long runs of 71 and 77 yards on back-to-back drives, and finished with 339 yards rushing (a season-high allowed from Southern Miss).
To make matters more dire, the Golden Eagles could potentially face preseason Heisman-candidate Leonard Fournette on Oct. 15.
“It’s certainly a big challenge for an excellent football team so we know we got to have good practices,” said Head Coach Jay Hopson. “Certainly there are a lot of strengths [for LSU]. Of course, their running back is a Heisman candidate, that’s certainly a strength.”
The Golden Eagles will have to look past their performance against UTSA and look forward to a talented LSU team that is coming off of a 42-7 home win against Missouri. The Tigers are not looking to take another step back after losses against Wisconsin and Auburn earlier this season.
Though the Golden Eagles are looking for a trap game, the Tigers are thinking differently. With new coach Ed Orgeron already 1-0 on the season, he’s not looking to take a step back so early.
“Whatever the day brings, we’re going to face it and be positive about it and go after it and be able to adjust on the move,” said Orgeron to Glenn Guilbeau of USA Today. “This is a new season for us. This is game two of our season, and that’s what we’re looking at.”
Southern Miss will have several things to work on throughout the week, already beginning in the practice sessions on Monday, and the Golden Eagles are very aware of their opponent that they have to face.
“Ready to go in and show LSU that Southern Miss has a good football team too,” Mullens said. “I don’t think the mentality changes. Every week, you’re working to be 1-0. You’re obviously aware that LSU is a great team. Big, fast, physical defense, one of the best in the nation.”
Mullens is one player who was banged up against UTSA, injuring his thumb late in the contest. But, he says, “I’m good, I’m healthy and excited about the opportunity on Saturday,” Mullens said in a joking matter. “I’m playing…. I think?” [laughs]
Southern Miss will visit Baton Rouge to take on LSU on Oct. 15 at 6:30 p.m.