Southern Miss

Nick Mullens has been a program savior at Southern Miss

Southern Miss quarterback Nick Mullens looks for an open receiver against Savannah State on Sept. 10 in Hattiesburg.
Southern Miss quarterback Nick Mullens looks for an open receiver against Savannah State on Sept. 10 in Hattiesburg. ttisbell@sunherald.com

Without Nick Mullens, where would Southern Miss football be?

Friday's 39-24 upset of Louisiana Tech provided a fresh reminder of just how important the senior quarterback has been to the USM program over the last four years.

If Mullens wasn't on the roster, USM could still be scratching its way back to the surface after dealing with a humbling 23-game losing streak from 2012-13.

The proof is in the numbers.

When Mullens has received the start and played the majority of the game over the last four years, Southern Miss is 19-19.

In games where Mullens has either not started or left with an injury in the first quarter, USM is 0-11.

It's possible that USM could have found a competent quarterback to fill Mullens' spot at some point over the last three years, but it's unlikely they could have signed a player close to the caliber of the Hoover, Ala., native.

Mullens deserved that short ride on his teammates’ shoulders Friday night at Roberts Stadium.

ULL-USM in N.O.?

It's still uncertain which bowl game USM (6-6) will wind up taking part in.

The New Orleans Bowl seems the most likely scenario at the moment against a Sun Belt Conference opponent.

Troy (9-2) beat USM 37-31 on Sept. 17 in Hattiesburg so that eliminates the Trojans as a possible opponent.

Appalachian State (9-3), Arkansas State (6-5) and Louisiana-Lafayette (5-6) seem like the most likely Sun Belt teams to receive New Orleans Bowl bids if USM receives a bid.

ULL has to win at Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday to clinch a postseason bid. If the Cajuns pull it off, there's a decent chance they'll be in the New Orleans Bowl for the fifth time in the last six seasons.

If USM and ULL meet at the Superdome, there should be a crowd on hand easily in excess of 40,000.

When ULL and Tulane played in 2013, the attendance was an impressive 54,728.

While the Cajuns and Golden Eagles might not top that number, there would be a nice atmosphere in New Orleans on Dec. 17.

The Hawaii Bowl, New Mexico Bowl, the Heart of Dallas Bowl and Boca Raton Bowl are also possibilities for USM, but New Orleans makes a lot of sense.

Deserving upperclassmen

This year's group of USM seniors deserved to go out with a bowl bid considering all they've been through and the work they've put in.

Southern Miss did underperform this season with five losses in the last seven games, but there's little doubt that it was one of the better teams in the conference. It just didn't always play like it.

The Golden Eagles played their best games in the season opener (a 44-35 win over Kentucky) and Friday's regular season finale.

If Mullens and company play in the bowl game like they did against Louisiana Tech, they'll have a good chance to get the program's first bowl victory since 2011 in Hawaii.

Patrick Magee: 228-896-2333, @Patrick_Magee

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