The Golden Eagles’ performance against Troy was much similar to when they played Kentucky. The Golden Eagles had a very slow start that they could not rebound from this time. Southern Miss found itself classically overlooking a highly underrated Troy team.
The Golden Eagles saw many of their problems come from the offensive side of the ball. Turnovers continue to be the biggest thorn in the Golden Eagle offense’s side.
After Saturday, Nick Mullens’ interception ratio is now the same as his passing ratio which is at six-even. Although rain may have played as a factor for the 37-31 loss, it cannot be viewed as an excuse. Penalties also plagued the offense which makes this an issue that needs to be cleaned up.
On another note, Ito Smith continues to stay effective and be a positive aspect for the offense. For another game, he helped carry his team when they needed him most.
The majority of the receivers’ production picked up in the second half, but the group needs to avoid dropping the ball which may
have been the difference at times, but again could have occurred due to the weather.
The defense was no cleaner than the offense especially with penalties. The defense has proven that it can adjust better in the second half and needs to stay that way.
However, the damage it does has been unfixable which means a balance needs to be found. The defensive line led by Dylan Bradley and Xavier Thingpen stayed effective totaling 17 tackles and 4.5 tackes for losses, in a collective effort.
The team seems to be a second half team. The offense overall has to stay effective and control the time of possession. If the Golden Eagle defense is left on the field too long, the secondary is slowly exposed, making the defensive line ineffective.
UTEP has struggled as a team in its pass two games allowing 43 points per game while only scoring 19 points per game.
Despite these poor numbers the Miners will look to utilize their star running back Aaron Jones who they lost after two games last season. Jones is a dual threat as a runner and receiver which could be a good test for the Golden Eagle defense.
The game looks to be a good game for the Golden Eagles to regain momentum but UTEP itself has enough weapons to be a game-changer.
Commonly, most fans would jump ship and think the Golden Eagles could not win their fair share of games. But, what Southern Miss did not do on the field against Troy, they could improve on for the rest of the season.
“We had some miscues and some mis-executions,” said coach Jay Hopson. “It’s part of football. What we have to do from that is to live and learn.”
Southern Miss almost laid an egg in their 37-31 showing against the Troy Trojans. But besides the last play, the Golden Eagles lagged behind in key areas where the Trojans took advantage.
Even though they were the first on the scoreboard, Southern Miss was quickly blitzed by 17 quick Troy points in just 5:16 in total time in the first quarter that put USM behind, 17-7. Southern Miss was basically playing catch-up from the first quarter. Combined with the rain that delayed the game, the Golden Eagles were thrown for a loop from the outset.
“I know it was a rainy day, bad conditions but both teams have to handle it,” Hopson said. “They handled the conditions better than we did. That’s what I told them at halftime, everything that could go wrong for this football team has gone wrong and we’re only down seven.”
Senior quarterback Nick Mullens again had a subpar game, throwing two more interceptions on the season, but led the Golden Eagles to one final play as it came down to the wire. From the nine-yard line, Mullens threw a post route into the end zone to Isaiah Jones that could not quite get there. The game ended and the questions starting arising on who to blame for the Golden Eagles loss.
“As a coach, you always take the blame for all of it,” Hopson said. “We got to execute better.”
Rewinding back to before the last drive, the Southern Miss offense just looked to be out of sync. Mullens was not connecting on all of his receivers, evidenced by his 24-of-52 throwing performance.
“We deserved every bit of that loss,” Mullens said. “There’s no other way around it.”
He never really quite caught a rhythm with his receivers throughout the game.
Whether the passes were over or under their intended targets, or the receiver just flat-out dropped the pass, the receiving game was not there against Troy as Mullens reached 263 yards of passing on the day.
Looking at the final score, you would think that Southern Miss was gashed on defense. But this is where stats can be misleading.
The Trojan offense only had one drive that had to go longer than 50 yards for a score. Troy was working with short field position all night, which means that the defense can only give up so much.
“We were backed up a lot early in the first half,” Hopson said. “Seemed like to me in the first quarter and second quarter, it was almost like we were always backed up.”
The Golden Eagles were not looking for excuses or looking for reasons to say that they lost the game. They just … well … lost.
But, this is a great learning moment for Southern Miss.
“Certainly that’s what you’re counting on as a football team is that this is a wake-up call,” Hopson said. “Mistakes or errors that you make kind of amplify in a loss. You learn a lot more from your defeats.”
The Golden Eagles will return to the gridiron against UT- El Paso on Sept. 24.
“It’s our challenge to make this better,” Hopson said. “Adversity strikes us all. This bunch is a fighting bunch.”