Southern Miss

Southern Miss in dire need of win over Marshall

Dylan Bradley of Southern Miss sacks Rice quarterback Tyler Stehling on Oct. 1 in Hattiesburg.
Dylan Bradley of Southern Miss sacks Rice quarterback Tyler Stehling on Oct. 1 in Hattiesburg. ttisbell@sunherald.com

The Southern Miss football team hits the field Saturday for homecoming badly in need of a victory.

The Golden Eagles (4-3, 2-1) host Marshall (2-5, 1-2) at 6 p.m. in a game that will be televised locally by WXXV-NBC.

Both teams stumble into Saturday's contest with USM on a two-game losing streak and Marshall dealing with four losses over the last five games.

Marshall has dominated the series with USM recently, winning the last five contests and mostly by a wide margin. USM fell 31-10 at Marshall a year ago.

USM is coming off a bye week while Marshall is still reeling following a 27-24 loss to Charlotte, which is in just its second season on the FBS level.

USM began the week as a 9-point favorite according to Las Vegas, but that number ballooned to 16 points by Friday.

USM head coach Jay Hopson and his players were clearly frustrated following the 45-10 loss at LSU on Oct. 15, but the bye week gave the team an opportunity to collect their thoughts.

Nobody was more critical of the current standing of the team after the LSU game than senior quarterback Nick Mullens, who said that the team was good enough to win the next five games or bad enough to lose the next five contests.

Hopson shrugged off his quarterback's comments this week.

“Everybody can look and see where everyone’s at and that’s the reality of our season,” Hopson said. “It is a five-game stretch to achieve your goals and that’s what we have to take one at a time. That’s all that matters. We have to get ready to play Marshall and nothing else really matters right now.”

USM controls its own fate in the C-USA West. If it wins the next five games, it’s in the conference title contest.

USM relied heavily on the short passing game at LSU with Mullens dealing with a bruised thumb, but the Eagles should be able to air it out more with Hopson declaring his quarterback fully healthy this week.

The Marshall defense has given up an average of 262.1 passing yards this season to rank ninth in Conference USA. USM ranks first in C-USA in passing defense, giving up 173.4 yards a contest.

The strength of the Marshall offense is the passing game. Sophomore quarterback Chase Litton has completed 62.1 percent of his passes for 1,812 yards, 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Litton does a good job of spreading it around, but Michael Clark and Josh Knight have been the Herd's top receivers.

Clark, a sophomore who stands 6-foot-7, 212 pounds, has 26 catches for 463 yards and four touchdowns. Knight, a 6-foot-1 senior, has 35 catches for 419 yards and four scores.

Hopson will face Marshall for the first time as a head coach on Saturday. He served as the defensive backs coach for Marshall from 1996-2000 before leaving to work in the same position at USM from 2001-03.

“They're a football team that we all know, Marshall,” Hopson said. “They have our utmost respect. We know it’s going to be a talented football team that’s coming in here Saturday.”

Game plan

Who: Southern Miss vs. Marshall

When: 6 p.m., Saturday

Where: Roberts Stadium, Hattiesburg

TV: WXXV-NBC

Radio: 104.9 FM

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