CFN Take: Southern Miss Rally Falls Short
Posted Nov 13, 2014

Southern Miss Golden Eagles 2014 ... Head Coach: Todd Monken

Southern Miss Golden Eagles

2014 Schedule
Record: 2-9

Aug. 30 at Miss State L 49-0
Sep. 6 Alcorn State W 26-20
Sep. 13 at Alabama L 52-12
Sep. 20 Appalachian St W 21-20
Sep. 27 Rice L 41-23
Oct. 4 at Middle Tenn L 37-31
Oct. 18 at North Texas W 30-20
Oct. 25 Louisiana Tech L 31-20
Nov. 1 at UTEP L 35-14
Nov. 8 Marshall L 63-17
Nov. 15 at UTSA L 12-10
Nov. 29 UAB
Nov. 13 at UTSA 12, Southern Miss 10
And You Care Because … UTSA got four Sean Ianno field goals, taking a 9-0 lead going into the fourth quarter on kicks from 41, 28 and 35 yards out, but it was his 38-yard field goal with two seconds to play to give the Roadrunners the win. Southern Miss rallied back in the fourth on a 36-yard Corey Acosta field goal and a 22-yard Markese Triplett touchdown catch, but UTSA was able to mount a final comeback going 60 yards in ten plays leading to Ianno’s kick.
What Else? UTSA RB David Glasco II ran 16 times for 108 yards
- Southern Miss QB Nick Mullens completed 21-of-34 passes for 257 yards and a touchdown with a pick
- Time of possession: 35:26 – Southern Miss 24:34
- Fourth down conversions: UTSA 3-for-3 – USM 0-for-1
Game Rating: B

Nov. 8 Marshall 63, at Southern Miss 17
And You Care Because … Southern Miss got up 14-0 on two, two-yard runs from Ito Smith, but it was all Marshall the rest of the way on a 63-3 run with Remi Watson running for three short scores and Rakeem Cato throwing two first half touchdown passes and running for a ten yard score. Steward Butler tore off touchdown runs from 30 yards out in the second quarter and 83 yards in the fourth. The Herd scored 42 unanswered points.
What Else? Marshall QB Rakeem Cato completed 13-of-19 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns, and he ran nine times for 92 yards and a score
- Southern Miss RB Ito Smith ran 27 times for 141 yards and two touchdowns
- Marshall RB Stewart Butler ran five times for 118 yards and two touchdowns
- Southern Miss QB Cole Weeks completed 11-of-19 passes for 114 yards with a pick
Game Rating: D+

Nov. 1 at UTEP 35, Southern Miss 14
And You Care Because … UTEP, helped by five takeaways, got past a USM blocked field goal for a score and a 55-yard Casey Martin touchdown catch to roll in the fourth quarter thanks to the D. Trey Brown returned an interception 51 yards for a touchdown, and Nate Gathrie returned a fumble 59 yards for a score to pull away. The Miners got some big plays throughout the game, at least from the defense and special teams, answering the Martin touchdown with a kickoff return for a score from Autrey Golden. Jameill Showers threw a one-yard touchdown pass and ran for a ten-yard score.
What Else? Total yards: USM 402 – UTEP 234
- Turnovers: USM 5 – UTEP 1
- UTEP QB Jameill Showers completed 10-of-23 passes for 127 yards and a score, and ran eight times for nine yards and a touchdown
- Southern Miss QB Cole Weeks completed 20-of-46 passes for 309 yards and a score with two interceptions
Game Rating: C

Oct. 25 Louisiana Tech 31, Southern Miss 20
And You Care Because … It was a nip-and-tuck game until midway through the fourth when Carlos Henderson caught a 29-yard touchdown pass to help Louisiana Tech pull up 24-13, and Kenneth Dixon put it away on a one-yard score. Dixon scored on pass plays from 84 and five yards out in the third, but USM hung around on two Corey Acosta field goals and an 18-yard George Payne touchdown dash. But the Bulldogs took over in the fourth.
What Else? Rushing: Louisiana Tech 26 carries for 30 yards – USM 26 carries for -31 yards
- Louisiana Tech RB Kenneth Dixon ran 19 times for 41 yards and a touchdown, and caught six passes for 124 yards and two scores
- Southern Miss QB Cole Weeks completed 28-of-45 passes for 338 yards and a touchdown with two picks
- Louisiana Tech QB Cody Sokol completed 27-of-46 passes for 423 yards and three touchdowns
Game Rating: B-

Oct. 18 Southern Miss 30, at North Texas 20
And You Care Because … Southern Miss started out the scoring with a 40-yard Michael Thomas touchdown catch, and got the first of three Corey Acosta field goals. North Texas came up with a two-yard Antoinne Jimmerson scoring run and two Trevor Moore field goals to go up 13-10 in the first half, but Southern Miss controlled the game the rest of the way. Casey Martin and George Payne each scored in the third, with Payne’s 19-yard touchdown catch breaking a 20-20 tie, and Acosta’s final field goal put it away.
What Else? Time of possession: Southern Miss 37:11 – North Texas 22:49
- Southern Miss RB Ito Smith ran 12 times for 95 yards
- North Texas WR Carlos Harris caught 15 passes for 216 yards
- Total yards: Southern Miss 506 – North Texas 395
Game Rating: B

Oct. 4 at Middle Tennessee 37, Southern Miss 31
And You Care Because … Middle Tennessee got Shane Tucker touchdown runs from one and 44 yards out, and Terry Pettis caught a 59-yard scoring pass and Reggie Whatley ran for a 64-yard score for a 37-18 lead, but Southern Miss kept on pushing with Nick Mullins throwing three fourth quarter touchdown passes with two 17-yarders to Michael Thomas and an eight-yard play to Marquise Ricard with 27 seconds to play to pull within six, but the Blue Raiders recovered the ensuing onside kick.
What Else? Total yards: Middle Tennessee 583 – Southern Miss 537
- Southern Miss QB Nick Mullen completed 36-of-54 passes for 426 yards and three scores with a pick
- Middle Tennessee QB Austin Grammer completed 21-of-26 passes for 332 yards and two touchdowns, and ran seven times for 35 yards
- Southern Miss WR Michael Thomas caught nine passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns
Game Rating: B

Sept. 27 Rice 41, at Southern Miss 23
And You Care Because … Rice got its first win of the season with Jowan Davis running for two six-yard scores and Mario Hull catching a 40-yard touchdown pass, but Southern Miss wouldn’t go away with Michael Thomas catching a 30-yard touchdown pass and George Payne running for a one-yard score to stay alive. Luke Turner’s one-yard scoring run in the third helped all but put it away for the Owls, even with USM’s Nick Mullens making it interesting with a long drive and a ten-yard scoring pass to James Cox.
What Else? Rushing yards: Rice 217 – Southern Miss 40
- Rice RB Jowan Davis ran 29 times for 131 yards and two touchdowns
- Southern Miss QB Nick Mullens completed 24-of-45 passes for 283 yards and two scores with an interception
- Turnovers: Southern Miss 3 – Rice 1
Game Rating: B-

Sept. 20 at Southern Miss 21, Appalachian State 20
And You Care Because … Just when it appeared that Appalachian State was about to tie up the game at 21 in the final seconds on a two-yard Simms McElfrish touchdown catch, Southern Miss blocked the extra point for the win. George Payne ran for a 15-yard score and caught a 31-yard touchdown pass for USM, with the scoring grab coming in the final minutes, but ASU went on a 12-play, 75-yard drive to get in the end zone, but the USM special teams came through.
What Else? Penalties: Appalachian State 11 for 59 yards – Southern Miss 9 for 103 yards
- Appalachian State QB Taylor Lamb completed 28-of-40 passes for 264 yards and two scores with two picks
- USM BQ Nick Mullens completed 22-of-35 passes for 268 yards and a score with two picks
- Time of possession: ASU 35:51 – USM 24:09
Game Rating: B+

Sept. 13 at Alabama 52, Southern Miss 12
And You Care Because … Southern Miss took an early 3-0 lead, and then it was all Alabama as Amari Cooper took a pass 22 yards for a score and Blake Sims ran for a four-yard touchdown. Kenyan Drake came up with two one-yard touchdown runs before adding a 29-yarder in the fourth.
What Else? Alabama ran for 333 yards and averaged 6.8 yards per carry. Kenyan Drake ran nine times for 59 yards and three scores, and Derrick Henry added 73 yards on 11 carries.
- Alabama WR Amari Cooper caught eight passes for 135 yards and a score, and Blake Sims completed 12-of-17 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 46 yards and a touchdown.
- Southern Miss QB Nick Mullens completed 19-of-35 passes for 207 yards.
- Third down conversions: Alabama 7-of-11 – Southern Miss 3-of-13
Game Rating: D+

Sept. 6 at Southern Miss 26, Alcorn State 20
And You Care Because … Southern Miss got up 17-0 in the first half and took a 23-7 lead into the fourth quarter helped out by three of Corey Acosta’s four field goals and helped by two Nick Mullens touchdown passes, but Alcorn State made it fun in the fourth with a four-yard touchdown catch from Casey Freeman and a five-yard run from Anthony Williams Down six, ASU had one more shot, but USM’s Jomez Applewhite came up with a pick in the final minute to seal the win. Ito Smith ran 32 times for 118 yards for the Golden Eagles.
Game Rating: B

Aug. 30 at Mississippi State 49, Southern Miss 0
And You Care Because … It took a little while for MSU to get into a groove, but the offense exploded for 550 yards with Dak Prescott throwing four touchdown passes and Jay Hughes returning a blocked field goal for a score. Southern Miss managed just 283 yards with three turnovers.
What Else? It’s Southern Miss, so there’s no need to give Dak Prescott the Heisman quite yet, but he showed why he’s a sneaky-good candidate completing 18-of-26 passes for 284 yards and four touchdowns with a pick. He didn’t have to run much or be magical, running just eight times for 23 yards.
- Southern Miss couldn’t keep the chains moving. Nick Mullens completed fewer than half of his passes with two picks, but he was under pressure and had to keep pressing. USM had to ignore the ground game.
- The Golden Eagles get Alcorn State up next to finally get a chance to work on everything it needs to for the Conference USA season – mostly, getting the ground game going. And then comes the date against Alabama.
- It’s not like MSU unleashed the ground game. It was okay, but it didn’t dominate like it’ll need to at times – chalk that up to Prescott not running too often. That’ll come.
Game Rating: D

2014 Preview 

The Golden Eagles will begin 2014 with a one-game winning streak … and much-needed stability on the sidelines.

While Southern Miss was dreadful for a second-straight season, going 1-11, this offseason has had a slightly more positive feel to it than did the previous one. While the Eagles only won a single game, it was in the finale, snapping a 23-game losing streak to provide some momentum to carry into 2014. And unlike a year ago, the school will not be breaking in a new staff of coaches. Ellis Johnson got the boot out of Hattiesburg after just one season, but successor Todd Monken is back for 2014, with designs on methodically making USM competitive again.

Monken and his staff have a long road ahead, and they know it. But progress is likely, even if the gains aren’t always measured by the standings. Eight starters return to both sides of the ball, and three pivotal defenders, LB Alan Howze, DT Rakeem Nunez-Roches and S Jacorius Cotton, are back after missing all or most of 2013. But it’s a young quarterback whose development will dictate how much progress Southern Miss makes in 2014.

Monken was a Golden Eagle rookie last year. So, too, was QB Nick Mullens, who seized the starting job midway through his first year. As expected, he struggled, though the trial by fire should pay dividends in the fall. For Monken’s attack to succeed, Southern Miss will require competence behind center, which has eluded the program the past two seasons.

The defense ought to be better, if for no other reason than it can’t be much worse than it was in 2013. The Eagles weren’t even close most weekends last fall, losing by an average score of 42-17, and giving up at least 55 points in five separate games. However, from that tattered group, the top five tacklers return, and there’s no overstating the importance of having access to the leadership of Howze, Nunez-Roches and Cotton for one final year.

Baby steps. It’s the unit of measurement these days in Hattiesburg for a program that’s gone 1-23 over the past two seasons. Nevertheless, the upperclassmen remember that it was just three short years ago that Southern Miss won 12 games and the Conference USA title. Yeah, it’s a long road to the top, but the Eagles appreciate the direction they’re headed now that Monken and his assistants are digging their heels in for a second year on the sidelines.

What to watch for on offense: The receivers will help raise the level of QB Nick Mullens’ play. Mullens is in just his second year, with a ton to learn. He’ll be helped along, though, this season by a capable staff and an underrated corps of receivers. Not only do last year’s top two pass-catchers, Tyre’oune Holmes and Markese Triplett, return, but sophomore D.J. Thompson has performed this offseason as if he plans to be the best of the bunch. He was at times unstoppable, a welcome development for a program craving a field-stretcher.

What to watch for on defense: Fewer blown assignments. The Golden Eagles were young and often out of position in 2013. With so many members of the two-deep back, the D can’t help but be more consistent this fall. Plus, now that seniors Alan Howze, Rakeem Nunez-Roches and Jacorius Cotton are set to resume their careers after being shelved last fall, Southern Miss will get an instant infusion of leadership and know-how. If the D-line is able to generate more pressure than it did last fall, USM is liable to be a pleasant surprise on defense in 2014.

The team will be far better if… it gets off to faster starts. Hey, there’s no area that Southern Miss can’t improve upon, including special teams. But everyone is going to benefit if the team doesn’t start each game in a massive hole. In a dozen games last year, the Golden Eagles were outscored in the opening frame, 134-24. That’s an average of two first-quarter points per game. If the team can simply hang around and gain confidence in the first 30 minutes, there’s no telling what they might be able to pull out in the second-half.

The Schedule: Just how quickly have the Golden Eagles turned things around? They'll find out right away at Mississippi State how good they are, and lurking is the road trip to Alabama. Fortunately, in between is a winner against Alcorn State, and Appalachian State at home isn't bad before kicking off the C-USA season against defending champion, Rice. Three road games in four won't make for a fun midseason, but closing out with Marshall and UAB at home - even if playing a loaded Herd team from the Atlantic won't be great - could help. There's no Western Kentucky from the East, but playing Marshall and Middle Tennessee is a bad break.

Best offensive player: Sophomore WR Tyre’oune Holmes. The fact that Holmes is already USM’s best offensive player is testament to his skill set … and to the dearth of top-flight talent in Hattiesburg. Holmes enjoyed an auspicious debut as an Eagle, leading the team in receptions in 2013. Since he operates from the slot, he’ll be running the kinds of routes that won’t stretch the arm strength of developing QB Nick Mullens. In other words, Holmes will be given plenty of chances to turn short hitches into long gains.

Best defensive player: Senior LB Alan Howze. Howze is the leader of a trio of Golden Eagle seniors returning to the D after missing all or most of 2013. The one-time running back was embarking on his second season on defense, when he was shut down by an injury. He’ll continue his development this fall as one of the steady performers of a unit that was routinely trucked a year ago. Howze’s toughness and attention to detail will be apparent whenever he’s on the field this season.

Key players to a successful season: Sophomore QB Nick Mullens. He doesn’t have to be former Eagle Austin Davis yet. And he sure doesn’t have to be perfect. He does, however, have to evolve from his rookie season, when he completed less than 50% of his passes. Head coach Todd Monken has had dangerous offenses wherever he was as an assistant. He has lofty goals in Hattiesburg, too, but it’ll be up to the second-year Mullens to execute the gameplan, with fewer mistakes and more connections downfield.

The season will be a success if ... the Golden Eagles are a dangerous Conference USA team in November. Wins matter, of course, but not so much for a school that boasts just a single victory over UAB in the last two years. These days, growth will be measured as much by competitiveness as anything else. If Southern Miss amasses a head of steam that it can use as a launching point for 2015, this season will be a success. And if it comes in the form of a 3-9 mark, so be it.

Key game: Oct. 25 vs. Louisiana Tech. By this point in the 2014 season, Southern Miss ought to be playing at a higher level than it does in the opener with Mississippi State. The Golden Eagles should also be battle-tested, having already faced two SEC teams and defending Conference USA champ Rice. The upcoming season is all about erasing the memory of last year and improving over time. If USM is heading in the right direction, it should be evident by the end of October.

2013 Fun Stats:
- Scoring: Southern Miss 503 – Opponents 205
- Rushing yards per game: Southern Miss 72.9 – Opponents 224.6
- Sacks: Southern Miss 36 - Opponents 13

- 2014 Southern Miss Preview - What You Need To Know & Top Players

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