The Southern Miss Golden Eagles lost their second game of the season to a Power Five program, but impressed everyone nationally with their ability to overcome adversity and nearly pull off a huge upset. Let's take a look at five things we learned about the Golden Eagles in this week four game.
D’Nerius Antoine Was The Man: The JUCO transfer at safety was all over the field for the Golden Eagles with a team-leading eight tackles, one tackle for loss, one interception, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. Every time it seemed like Southern Miss’ defense was about to run out of gas, Antoine made a play that reenergized the team. With a team-leading 25 tackles, two forced fumbles, and an interception, he is easily the defensive MVP for this team after four games
Penalties Are Still An Issue: The Golden Eagles were hit for 80 yards on nine penalties versus Nebraska. The most unacceptable part is the number of illegal formation penalties. They were hit with that on multiple occasions, including on a failed fake punt attempt. Even if the pass was completed on the fake punt, the ball was coming back on a penalty.
Mullens Looks Good In The Pocket: Quarterback Nick Mullens threw for a career-high 447 yards versus Nebraska, and looked excellent when sitting in the pocket and throwing the football. He struggled when asked to roll out and throw on the run or set up again outside the pocket. During those plays, his accuracy dropped significantly. For a quarterback that was not guaranteed a starting spot heading into the season, he has been excellent this fall.
Ito Smith Needs More Touches: I have been beating this drum all season long. Smith is easily the most elusive player on the offensive side of the ball. The cut he made on his 17-yard touchdown run left the Nebraska safety missing badly as he ran into the end zone. Smith carried the ball seven times, caught five passes, and returned four kicks. Smith should easily be getting 20+ touches a game.
Field Goals Were A Bust: The move was made to go from Stephen Brauchle to Parker Shaunfield for field goal attempts after Brauchle missed two versus Austin Peay. Shaunfield missed both of his attempts versus Nebraska, from 33 and 44 yards, that could have significantly changed the way that the game went. The longest field goal made by a Southern Miss kicker is from 31 yards and they are a combined 4-8 on the season.
Bonus Insight: Southern Miss Can Battle for the West Title: Whether they will be able to compete with Louisiana Tech later this season is a question, but Southern Miss has proven that they can compete with anyone on their schedule. At this point, I think they are no worse than the third best team in the West. I actually think they are right behind Louisiana Tech and ahead of Rice. The biggest worry is setting expectations too high for this team.