Keeping Score

Southern Miss suffering from lack of a ground game

The Southern Miss football team has numerous deficiencies, but it's becoming apparent that its biggest problem is the complete lack of a rushing attack on offense.

The Golden Eagles currently rank 119th in the nation in rushing offense with an average of just 74.6 yards per game.

Only UConn, Purdue, Oregon State and Washington State are worse than USM at running the ball.

In Saturday's 36-13 loss at Louisiana Tech, USM managed just 59 yards on 21 carries. Louisiana Tech ran 48 times for 311 yards.

It was apparent that Louisiana Tech had no great advantage in overall talent over Southern Miss. It all came down to the fact that La. Tech could run the ball and USM could not.

The lack of a ground game is hurting freshman quarterback Nick Mullens and his development with three starts under his belt. It leads to him taking more chances with throwing the ball, leading directly to a poor completion percentage and numerous interceptions.

Mullens is currently completing 47.7 percent of his passes for 948 yards, five touchdowns and nine interceptions.

First-year head coach Todd Monken addressed the lack of a ground game in his Monday morning press conference.

“We’ve got to find a way to continue to run the ball," Monken said. "We’ve got to be better at running the ball schematically. We’ve got to do a better job of blocking it. But then we’ve also got to be in the game. We’ve got to give ourselves the chance to run the ball more often. I promise you with Louisiana Tech, a number of the rushing yards were midway through the third and the fourth quarter, just like our other opponents. We’ve got to continue to try to run the ball. We’ve got to find a way to not put so much pressure on (freshman quarterback Nick Mullens) to make every play And then, if we’re going to have to play pitch and catch, we’re going to have to catch the son of a gun. We haven’t done a very good job the last few weeks of catching the football and that’s what it’s all about. That’s what we’re going to be about here. We’ve got to find guys that will do that. No matter what their skill set is, we’ve got to find a way to create space and catch the football.”

To make Monken's take more concise: Mullens is getting very little help right now. The offensive line is not blocking and the receivers aren't catching the ball.

USM does have talented running backs. Those backs are simply not being given a chance to succeed due to a struggling line.