With a chance to show that they were for real in the Conference USA race, the Southern Miss Golden Eagles offense had a rough night in falling 31-10 to the Marshall Thundering Herd Friday night in Huntington.
Golden Eagles quarterback Nick Mullens ended the night with a respectable 314 yards passing on the night, but struggled with accuracy versus an attacking Marshall defense. His three turnovers, two lost fumbles and one interception, epitomized a Southern Miss night that consisted of mistake after mistake.
Southern Miss opened scoring in the first quarter with a nine-play, 89-yard drive that was capped by a six-yard touchdown pass to Michael Thomas to give USM a 7-0 lead. A pooch kickoff on the ensuing play was returned by Marshall’s Remi Watson to the USM 37-yard line. Seven plays later, Marshall was on the board with a Devon Johnson one-yard touchdown run to tie the game at seven.
After a trade of punts and turnovers, Southern Miss again took the lead with a six-play, 31-yard drive that ended with a Parker Shaunfield 33-yard field goal to make the score 10-7. This time attempting a squib kick, Marshall’s Deandre Reeves returned it to the 48-yard line to give the Thundering Herd great field position once again. Six plays later, Nick Smith drilled a 34-yard field goal to tie the game at 10 with 8:36 left in the first half.
Southern Miss again drove downfield versus the Marshall defense before facing a fourth and goal at the four-yard line. Shaunfield’s kick was blocked, giving Marshall the ball and momentum late in the half. Marshall faced a fourth down of their own at the USM 23-yard line and lined up for a field goal. A mental error by the Southern Miss defense resulted in an offside call and a first down. Three plays later, Chase Litton found Ryan Yurachk for a three-yard touchdown pass to send the game to the half at 17-10 in favor of Marshall.
The second half of the game was a comedy of errors for the Golden Eagles started with a failed fourth down on the Marshall 30-yard line. Marshall immediately made USM pay for that failure with a 61-yard touchdown pass to Reaves to extend the lead to 24-10. Southern Miss proceeded to fumble on each of the next two possessions, the second returned three yards for a touchdown by Jarquez Samuel to give Marshall a 31-10 lead with 1:49 left in the third quarter.
Southern Miss again drove inside Marshall territory for the seventh time of the night, but were turned away with Mullens’ fourth down pass batted down for an incompletion. Again, Southern Miss drove into Marshall territory, but Mullens threw a desperation fourth down pass that was intercepted for a touchback.
After forcing a Marshall punt, the Golden Eagles again drove into Marshall territory, before failing on fourth down for the second time to give the ball back to Marshall. Southern Miss had one more drive that moved inside the Marshall 15-yard line, before turning the ball over one more time and falling 31-10.
This was not a good performance for Southern Miss and should quickly be forgotten. Let’s do some immediate analysis of this disaster and what, if anything, was good from this game.
Ten Trips Inside Marshall Territory: Southern Miss drove inside Marshall territory on ten different occasions. The offense could move the ball up and down versus a good defense, but did not finish. Only scoring one point per trip inside Marshall territory is bad. Luckily, we can focus on the good of the offense moving the ball regularly. The
Defense Played Well: Who would have thought that the Golden Eagles defense would hold Marshall to only 277 yards on the night? Other than a few occasions, like a blown coverage that resulted in a 61-yard touchdown, the defense was not the problem tonight.
Tight Ends Got Involved: After nearly putting out a missing person’s report on the Golden Eagles tight ends, they finally got involved a bit tonight. Ricky Parks had one catch and Taylor Marini had two catches, giving the Marshall defense fits on several occasions.
Turnovers: Four Fumbles and an interception are nearly impossible to overcome versus a good opponent. Add in two turnover on downs and it was a bad night for the offense. Southern Miss punted the ball TWO times all night, but could only come up with 10 points. Turnovers will do that.
Passing Accuracy: Due to a lack of protection and an inability to feel pressure, Mullens was just barely 50% passing on the night. Marshall gave a blueprint of getting pressure on Mullens and his accuracy drops significantly. Not many teams can do it as well as Marshall, but when they faces pressure in the pocket, quarterbacks falter.
Finishing Drives: The offense made in into Marshall territory 10 times. Yes, 10 times. Only on two did they come up with points. That is completely unacceptable. Unless they get that fixed, it could be a long second half of the season.
Kicking Game: Partly coaching, partly execution, the kicking game let Southern Miss down. A blocked field goal changed the momentum of the end of the first half. An offside call on a field goal attempts minutes later turned three into seven and gave Marshall a 17-10 lead. After both Southern Miss scores, kickoffs were returned significantly, giving Marshall great field position to immediately respond. More coverage on this game will be coming Monday.