Southern Miss’ Mullens, Staggers talk about their big game
The Southern Miss offense finally gave fans much of what it expected and more.
Senior quarterback Nick Mullens took advantage of a bad Rice defense in a 44-28 victory at Roberts Stadium on Saturday night. He completed 25 of 36 passes for 591 yards and four touchdowns. His one interception wasn't exactly his fault.
His favorite target, Allenzae Staggers, was often running free in the Rice secondary and his first three catches were all touchdowns — 75, 81 and 93 yards. He finished with six catches for 292 yards and three scores.
If Saturday's record-breaking game is any indication, the USM offense is shifting into a gear where it may be able to abuse most Conference USA defenses.
However, don't expect Texas-San Antonio to be a walkover Saturday in the Alamodome.
While the Roadrunners' offense has been nothing special, they have been mostly competitive on the defensive side of the ball.
UTSA ranks second in the conference behind USM in passing defense, allowing 180.3 yards a game. USM (4-1, 2-0) is allowing an average of just 149 yards.
USM ties at UTSA
The good news for USM is that UTSA has been vulnerable on the ground, allowing 202 yards a game.
The bad news it that the man directing the UTSA offense, coordinator Pete Golding, is very familiar with the USM personnel. He was the safeties coach at USM from 2014-15.
With Shannon Dawson now serving as the USM offensive coordinator, it's not as if Golding will be totally familiar with what he'll see out of USM. But you can expect him to be a motivated coach in preparations for Saturday's 11 a.m. game.
Former USM offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey, who is now in the same role at Arizona State, is fully aware of what Golding's defense is capable of. The Roadrunners held ASU to just 15 points through three quarters before the Sun Devils rallied for a 32-28 win in San Antonio on Sept. 16.
Golding is a familiar face on the Mississippi Gulf Coast as the man who recruited the area for USM the last two years and also convinced West Harrison offensive lineman Josh Oatis and D’Iberville defensive back Jaquell Green to sign with UTSA in February.
Golding won't be the only coach with USM ties on the UTSA sideline on Saturday. Frank Wilson, the first-year UTSA head coach, was the running backs coach at USM in former head coach Larry Fedora's first year in Hattiesburg in 2008.
Wilson, who is considered a top notch recruiter, was also mentioned in 2011 and 2012 when USM was in need of a head coach. UTSA hired him away from LSU staff in January.
Can Roadrunners keep pace?
UTSA (1-3, 0-1) showed promise through its first three games thanks to tight contests with Colorado State and Arizona State, but suffered a 33-19 setback at Old Dominion last week.
Saturday's game is a pivotal one for UTSA, which is desperate to end a three-game losing streak.
While UTSA should fired up when it hits the field Saturday, it doesn't appear to have the offensive firepower to keep up with USM.
Dalton Sturm, the same UTSA quarterback who was pummeled in a 32-10 USM win last year, is again leading the way on offense. Sturm showed impressive athleticism last season, but was limited to just 66 yards on 6-of-22 passing. He has completed 60.8 percent of his passes for 782 yards, seven touchdowns and just three interceptions this season.
With USM leading the way in Conference USA with 17 sacks, Sturm could again spend a good chunk of the game on his back.