Southern Miss (0-7) hopes to do something that has not been done in almost two years, win a game.Their current 19-game streak of setbacks is the longest active losing streak among FBS programs. Saturday Nov. 2 the Golden Eagles pack their bags and trek east to Huntington W.Va. to take on Marshall Thundering Herd (4-3, 2-1 C-USA). Marshall suffered its first conference loss last week to Middle Tennessee State in a close Thursday night game, the final score was 51-49.
Recently, the Thundering Herd has had the Eagles number winning the last two meetings. One meeting still fresh on Golden Eagle fans minds is the homecoming embarrassment losing 59-24. Also two seasons ago, the Thundering Herd ruined Southern Miss’ BCS Bowl bid by defeating them 26-20. Much of the reason for both of those losses, Marshall junior quarterback Rakeem Cato, who brings an added dimension to the game with his ability to scramble when he needs to. Quarterbacks that can extend plays have hurt the Eagles defense significantly this season allowing many big gains. Cato has been on fire this season, through 7 games he has 1,807 passing yards and 15 touchdowns. The Cato-led offense is averaging 38 points per game.
Seven true freshmen have started at least one game this year and that includes starting quarterback Nick Mullins for the Golden Eagles. The youth on the field has left plenty of room for error. Mullens made his first career start against North Texas and completed 12-of-31 for 210 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Mullins making just his second start, has not seen many coverages and schemes, I would not be surprised if Marshall shows defensive superiority with different packages and looks to rattle the freshman.
Southern Miss is ranked 118th in the country in total offense, averaging just 285.7 yards per game this season. Of the 74 players on the roster, 38 are listed as a redshirt sophomore or younger. The biggest reason for the offensive struggles has been the significant amount of youth and inexperience on the team. After seeing the offensive explosion last Thursday, the offense has to be optimistic about their chances to move the ball on the Marshall defense.
The Golden Eagles have looked just as bad defensively as they have allowed teams to average of almost 415 total yards and 42 points per game. Despite forcing four turnovers last week, Southern Miss still gave up 529 total yards to North Texas, which became the fourth team to reach the 55-point mark against Todd Monken’s team this season. Dylan Reda registered a career-high 14 tackles in the loss.
Cato and the Thundering Herd smell like trouble for the Golden Eagles once again as they lead the conference with averages of 450 total yards per game and 38 points per game. From 20-yard line to 20-yard line, the Golden Eagles will need to stop wide receiver Tommy Shuler, who looks to be Cato’s favorite target in that area. Shuler and Cato are former high school teammates. Once the Thundering Herd hit the red zone the defense’s focus need to shift to tight end Gator Hoskins, who has 19 career touchdowns.
The winless Golden Eagles will be traveling to Huntington, W. Va., to face the Thundering Herd. The game will be airing on CBS Sports Network, kickoff is scheduled for 11:30 CT. I do not predict the Golden Eagles will win this game. Marshall should win easily, I am thinking three or four touchdowns easy.