Keeping Score

5 to Watch: Keys to a Southern Miss win at Marshall

By PATRICK MAGEE

pmagee@sunherald.com

Southern Miss will have to put pressure on Marshall quarterback Chase Litton on Saturday.
Southern Miss will have to put pressure on Marshall quarterback Chase Litton on Saturday.

The Southern Miss football team has a chance to earn its biggest win yet of the Todd Monken era on Friday at Marshall.

USM seems to have everything working on offense, but Friday's game will serve as a major test on the road against the defending Conference USA champion.

Several things have to go right for the Golden Eagles Saturday to pick up a win Saturday and here are five of them:

1. Safety support: Southern Miss has been banged up at safety since the season opener. Devonta Foster has missed every game but the opener against Mississippi State and Deshadrick Truly has been out the last two games. Picasso Nelson Jr. has filled in well and D'Nerius Antoine has been stellar at the other safety spot. USM has struggled at times with open field tackles in run support and it will have to do better at Marshall Saturday. Marshall star running back Devon Johnson is uncertain with an injury, but backup Tony Pittman is also a handful out of the backfield.

2. Get to the QB: USM currently lead C-USA in sacks with 13 and it's crucial that it gets to the Marshall freshman quarterback Chase Litton, who is a 6-foot-6 pocket passer. If Litton gets rattled, the Golden Eagles will be in good shape on defense.

3. Protect Mullens: The Southern Miss offensive line has shown significant progress over the last two weeks in keeping quarterback Nick Mullens upright. On Saturday, USM probably faces the best defense it's seen since the opener against Mississippi State. The Marshall defense is an opportunistic group that has eight interceptions this season compared to just three by USM.

4. Other options: Mullens has done a good job of spreading the ball around this season, but he may have to do it even more Saturday. He has relied heavily on Casey Martin and Mike Thomas the last two weeks, but it will be more important for players like tight end Taylor Marini and redshirt freshman Jordan Mitchell to get involved in the passing game.

5. Better special teams: USM has cut down on errors on special teams, but it will have to be even better Saturday. Southern Miss can't afford one big mistake on special teams and either Parker Schaunfield or Stephen Brauchle have to be reliable on short yardage field goals.

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