These are not the same Golden Eagles of previous years, posting horrid records and being blown out nearly every week. Southern Miss (2-1) is closer to the Larry Fedora era Golden Eagles than ever before and their contest against Nebraska (1-2) could be the biggest win in Todd Monken’s tenure.
Do not let Nebraska’s 1-2 record fool you however. The Cornhuskers are still going to beatopteamintheBig10and will be the biggest test so far for USM. If Southern Miss is to pull the upset, they will need several things to go their way.
In every game so far for Southern Miss, they have scored early and often, which led to their two wins and a competitive game against Mississippi State. USM put up 21 points in the first half against Texas State and 28 points in the first half against Austin Peay.
It will take a valiant effort from quarterback Nick Mullens and company to continue that trend for this game.
Sticking to the run will be crucial against Nebraska. Senior running back Jalen Richard rushed for 230 yards and four scores against Texas State. He will not be able to do it by himself against Nebraska. It will take a combined effort from Richard, Ito Smith and Justice Hayes in order to establish a solid rushing attack, which will allow quarterback Nick Mullens plenty of time in the pocket to make accurate throws.
This may seem like a stretch considering the caliber opponent that he will face. However, in their two losses, Nebraska has given up over 500 yards of total offense with over 370 of those being passing yards. Mullens has taken the reins after the quarterback controversy in camp and has burst out of the gates with career numbers. He will have to make big throws and sustain long drives to keep Nebraska’s offense off the field.
This will be the biggest key of the game for both teams. Nebraska is third in the nation in penalties and penalty yardage, but Southern is right at their heels at sixth in penalties. Nebraska also has just as potent an offense as Southern Miss and will put up a lot of points.
Which leads us to the two big keys: one, creating timely turnovers in order to get more possessions than Nebraska, which will allow USM to keep the ball away from them. Two, limiting their offense through penalties. Southern Miss’ defense is struggling, but if they can force Nebraska to make mental mistakes and put them behind the sticks, they can rally and force just enough stops for the offense to win the game. It helps that Nebraska is coming off an emotional loss to Miami in which they came back, only to fall in overtime. Nebraska may be looking past Southern Miss and will be mentally and physically spent, which could allow the Golden Eagles to sneak into Lincoln, Nebraska, and steal a win.