The question surrounding the Southern Miss Golden Eagles (0-9) football team this week, as it has been many weeks, is can the Golden Eagles end the streak? This week, the Eagles will face the Florida Atlantic Owls (3-6), the Owls in their first year in the revamped Conference USA have won two conference games this season.
The Golden Eagles who are ranked last in turnover margin and in giveaways look to turn things around this weekend. Head coach Todd Monken is not focused on the stats, he is focused on wins.
Southern Miss Golden Eagles head coach Todd Monken yells to his players during their game against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs in the first quarter at Joe Aillet Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
“It’s difficult to focus on statistics,” Todd Monken said to the Sun Hearld. “It always has been. The things that matter are turnovers, explosive plays, third down conversions, touchdowns in the red zone and lost-yardage plays on both sides of the ball. That’s it. The rest doesn’t matter.”
The streak of futility continued last week at in Ruston, at Louisiana Tech as the Eagles lost 36-13. Increasing the streak to21 consecutive losses. The program is just two years removed from a 12-2 season in 2011 and a C-USA championship.
The Golden Eagles offense is led by freshman quarterback Nick Mullens. Mullens has thrown for 948 yards in six games (three started) and 5 touchdowns. Much like one-time started Allan Bridgford, Mullens has not protected the ball well as he has thrown nine interceptions. The favorite target or most consistent wide receiver is as true freshman Tyre’oune Holmes has more than twice as many receptions, 44, as the next closest receiver. Holmes has not been the most productive wide receiver, that title goes to senior Markese Triplett, who has 20 catches, for 346 yards and three touchdowns. Although, Holmes has been racking up on the receptions, he is yet to reach pay dirt. The running game has been non-existent through most of the nine games, running back Jalen Richard, who has been splitting time with three other backs has 256 rushing yards this season on 71 carries.
It is not just the offense struggling, the defense has struggled as well. The defense has not only had to fight for four quarters with teams but with the injury bug as well. The stats shows two things, the length of time spent on the field and the amount of bodies forced to play. 17 different players have 20 tackles or more. The defense ranks 119th in the country in points allowed with 43.7 points per game.
The Golden Eagles could not be facing the FAU Owls at a more worse time, as the Owls are coming off a 34-17 victory against Tulane. The program outside of that game, had been in turmoil. Former coach Carl Pelini was forced to resign almost two weeks ago, after allegations of illegal drug use.
Quarterback Jaquez Johnson has been quite the roller coaster ride this season, as he has thrown for 1,305 yards and six touchdowns along with as many interceptions. Johnson’s rushing ability as seemed to be the only consistent part of his game as he has gained 518 yards with eight touchdowns. As Johnson goes, so goes the Owls as a whole.
The Owls defense has allowed 27.1 points and 369.2 yards per game this season. While those are not great numbers, the Owls find a way to take the ball away. D’Juon Smith has been quite the turnover creator, as he has seven interceptions on the season, which has him tied with Virginia’s Anthony Harris for tops in the nation.
The Golden Eagles can end their streak this week, FAU is not a great team but they are a FBS team, which means they are not going to lay down. Just as the Eagles players are thinking “this is a team we can beat.” The Owls players are saying the same thing about the Golden Eagles. I have the Golden Eagles sneaking away with this one. If and only if, they are able to win the turnover battle and not settle for field goals. The game will be televised on CSS, kickoff is scheduled for 11:30 a.m., at M.M. Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg.