Southern Miss is through with a quarter of its’ season and has a record of 1-2. The Golden Eagles have their final out-of-conference game against Appalachian State at home on Saturday. We’ll take a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly from the Golden Eagles’ first 3 games of the 2014 campaign
The Good: Lack of turnovers
Last year, Southern Miss finished -19 in turnover margin which was dead last in the country (the next closest team was Cal, at -15). That included 26 total interceptions thrown (#1 in the nation) by Golden Eagle quarterbacks. Although the season is still early, Southern Miss has done a much better job at protecting the football. USM has not turned the ball over since the first half of the Mississippi State game and the Eagles’ are +4 in the turnover margin through their first 3 games.
At this time last year, Southern Miss had a turnover margin of -9 (!) and had thrown 8 interceptions. The Golden Eagle coaching staff made it a point of emphasis in the offseason to reduce the number of turnovers in 2014. It has worked so far. Southern Miss fans are hoping this trend continues as USM could give themselves more chances to win games if they protect the football.
The Bad: Offensive line play
The offensive line was a major weakness for Southern Miss last year and that hasn't changed in the early part of the 2014 campaign. The Golden Eagles' line has struggled to give QB Nick Mullens time to throw the ball and has been unable to create running lanes for halfbacks Ito Smith and Tez Parks. Nick Mullens has been able to scramble well and avoid sacks which has helped some. Still, if Southern Miss wants to win games this year then improved offensive line play is imperative.
The Ugly: Rushing defense
Southern Miss has struggled mightily this year in regards to stopping the run. The Golden Eagles are 126th (out of 128) in the country in rushing defense and have given up 276 yards per game on the ground. Southern Miss gave up 333 rushing yards to Alabama last week which is somewhat excusable as the Crimson Tide have one of the top rushing attacks in college football.
Giving up 295 yards on the ground to Alcorn State, however, is unacceptable. Saturday's opponent, Appalachian State, is a run-oriented team. The Golden Eagle defense will need to be on its 'A-game' for that contest or it could be another long night for the Southern Miss football team.