Southern Miss will look to avoid a potential trap game when it travels to take on Texas-San Antonio at 11 a.m. on Saturday.
The Roadrunners (1-3, 0-1) are riding a three-game losing streak, but the Golden Eagles would be mistaken to take a win for granted at the Alamodome. UTSA has played both Colorado State and Arizona State tough this season before falling 33-19 at Old Dominion last week.
UTSA is led by first-year coach Frank Wilson, a former assistant at LSU, Tennessee and Southern Miss.
Points have been hard to come by for the Roadrunners, but their defense has often kept them in games.
“They’re a very talented football team,” USM coach Jay Hopson said. “Arizona State and Colorado State are games they could have won. They opened at home with a win and then could have won at Old Dominion. We know we have a really good football team we have to prepare for, a talented football team. When you’re in conference play you need to be ready to play each and every week.”
UTSA has just 385 yards rushing total through four games for an average of 96.3 a game.
USM (4-1, 2-0) has more that doubled UTEP in rushing offense this season, averaging 220.4 yards a game. Junior Ito Smith leads the way with 99 carries for 617 yards and five scores.
UTSA will have to find a way to run the ball effectively and take the pressure off quarterback Dalton Sturm, an athletic junior who has had some success throwing the ball this season. Sturm has completed 60.8 percent of his passes for 782 yards and seven touchdowns with three interceptions.
Sturm spent much of the 2015 game at USM running for his life. He was sacked five times and took violent hits on several other plays. He was held to 66 yards on 6-of-22 passing.
Southern Miss won last year’s game 32-10 in Hattiesburg, but the final score was not indicative of how much the Golden Eagles thoroughly dominated the game.
USM found its passing game last week in a big way with a 44-28 win over Rice. Senior quarterback Nick Mullens and junior receiver Allenzae Staggers both set single-game school records. Mullens completed 25 of 36 passes for 591 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. Staggers pulled in six passes for 292 yards and three touchdowns.
Mullens had plenty of time to find his receivers last week with the offensive line providing a perfect pocket for much of the game.
“We protected well,” Hopson said. “We made some dynamic plays, which were big plays, in the game. Allenzae and Nick connected, but it takes 11 for that to happen. Up front we blocked well and so did the running backs.”
After Mullens and his receivers had a hard time getting on the same page early in the season, the group appears to be catching fire at the right time. Mullens has completed 60.7 percent of his passes for 1,504 yards, 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
A win Saturday would put USM in good shape in the Conference USA West Division with only one road game remaining against a division opponent — Nov. 19 at North Texas.
Who: Southern Miss vs. UTSA
When: 11 a.m., Saturday
Where: Alamodome, San Antonio
Radio: 104.9 FM