Southern Miss

New Orleans Bowl: Mullens healthy, Southern Miss D feels ‘called out’

Southern Miss QB talks injuries, final game

USM QB Nick Mullens is healthy, ready for New Orleans Bowl.
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USM QB Nick Mullens is healthy, ready for New Orleans Bowl.

Southern Miss senior quarterback Nick Mullens’ right thumb has been a hot topic of discussion headed into Saturday’s New Orleans Bowl against Louisiana-Lafayette.

USM coach Jay Hopson revealed a week ago the details of a gruesome injury that Mullens suffered during a 55-32 loss at UTSA on Oct. 8. He suffered a dislocation that left a bone protruding from his right thumb.

Mullens told the medical staff, “Just push the bone back in and tape it. I think I can throw the ball.”

The bone was pushed back into place and Mullens re-entered the game after missing a couple of series.

During Thursday’s New Orleans Bowl media day at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Mullens admitted that he’s been peppered with questions about his thumb over the last week.

“Too many,” Mullens said. “It’s something that happened in part of the season, but we’re just excited for the bowl game now.”

Mullens sheepishly admitted that he’d rather people didn’t know about the injury.

On Thursday, he declared himself fully healthy for Saturday’s 8 p.m. game.

“It’s fine now,” Mullens said. “It’s been pretty healthy for a couple of weeks. Excited to get out there and throw it.”

Back where it started

Hopson’s coaching career began as a graduate assistant at Tulane in 1992, making Saturday’s game somewhat of a homecoming for the Vicksburg native.

Hopson spent just one season at Tulane before becoming defensive backs coach at Delta State in 1993.

“I lived right down from the Hilton,” Hopson said of his former New Orleans home. “It’s pretty neat. Driving over, I told Nick that I can remember getting up Saturday morning and jogging down the Riverwalk to the French Market. That was my little jogging loop when I was a young man.”

As for Hopson’s favorite memory of the Superdome, he points back to a 31-3 win over Tulane when he was the defensive coordinator at Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles held the Green Wave to just 85 yards of offense that game.

All business

New Orleans is a popular destination for any college student due to the nightlife, but the Golden Eagles are confident that they’ll take their trip seriously.

“Everybody on our team, they’re grown,” USM senior receiver D.J. Thompson said. “Everybody is between 18 and 23. What I like about our guys is everybody’s smart enough to make the right decisions. We know it’s all business. We all want the win. The win is the most important thing for us. As long as we keep practicing the way we’ve been practicing, we’re going to be fine.”

USM held a mid-afternoon practice at the Superdome on Thursday and the team was set to attend the Pelicans game against the Indiana Pacers at the Smoothie King Center on Thursday night.

Bulletin board material

The Southern Miss football team fed off some of the pregame chatter from Louisiana Tech before its 39-24 win over the Bulldogs in the regular-season finale.

On Thursday, USM senior defensive tackle Dylan Bradley said that the team has also been picking up on some of the things that the Ragin’ Cajun players have been saying.

“Everybody knows Louisiana Tech sent a message to the defense they were going to go out and embarrass us,” Bradley said. “ULL sent the message to us a couple of days ago that they’re going to come out and run the ball down our throats. That’s a call out to us and that’s something we’ve got to take to our heart. We’ve got to come out with the same intensity. You’ve got to wake up knowing these guys called you out. How are you going to respond? If I know my guys, we’re going to respond the same way we responded against Louisiana Tech, if not better.”

Game plan

Who: Southern Miss vs. Louisiana-Lafayette

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans

Radio: 104.9-FM