Game Preview: Southern Miss vs. Marshall
Nov. 1, 2013
The Golden Eagles take to the road this weekend for what has become an annual tradition, a battle with the Marshall Thundering Herd.
The game is slated for 11 a.m. CT, and will be broadcast on the CBS Sports Network, the first of two Golden Eagle games to be broadcast on that channel this season.
Southern Miss (0-7, 0-3 Conference USA) holds a 5-3 advantage over Marshall (4-3, 2-1 Conference USA) in the all-time series but the Herd has won the last two meetings by scores of 59-24 in 2012 and 26-20 in 2011.
In a series that has produced close games - 4-of-8 previous meetings have been decided by seven or fewer points - both squads have proven apt at scoring. The average combined score is 56.4 points. The Herd poses a significant challenge to Southern Miss on both sides of the ball. Marshall ranks atop the conference in scoring offense, total offense and total defense and is second in C-USA in scoring defense.
Southern Miss freshman quarterback Nick Mullens will make his second career start versus the Herd.
In his debut as a Golden Eagle starter, Mullens went 12-for-31 passing with 210 yards and a 59-yard touchdown strike to senior Dominique Sullivan, the longest scoring play of the year. Overall, Mullens has completed 24-of-54 passes for 327 yards and three touchdowns.
Mullens will pass to, among others, a trio of freshman receivers, each of whom has shown flashes of brilliance in his rookie campaign. Tyre'oune Holmes leads the team with 34 receptions for 247 yards. Marquise Ricard has accounted for 13 catches, 144 yards and a pair of touchdowns while James Cox has 10 receptions for 101 yards and a score.
The Marshall defense is led by lineman James Rouse, who is second among Conference USA defenders with nine tackles for loss to go with three sacks. A.J. Leggett and Monterius Lovett have two interceptions apiece.
When the Herd has the ball, the focus will be quarterback Rakeem Cato, who is second in conference with 2,029 yards of total offense and an average of 258.1 passing yards per game. Cato has the third-best passer efficiency rating in C-USA (134. 7).
Overall, Cato has completed 146-of-249 passes for 1,807 yards and 15 touchdowns. His favorite targets have been Tommy Shuler (49 receptions for 517 yards and three touchdowns), Devon Smith (20 catches for 369 yards and two touchdowns) and Gator Hoskins (19 catches for 298 yards and six touchdowns).
The Golden Eagle defense will look to thwart Cato's success and will rely on players like sophomore defensive back DeBarriaus Miller and redshirt sophomore linebacker Terrick Wright. Both Miller and Wright have an interception on the year, Wright's having come versus North Texas.
Miller enters the game second in the conference and tied for 28th in the country with 66 total tackles (31 solo) while Wright is tied for ninth in C-USA with 55 total tackles (23 solo).