We are fortunate today to have Jason Munz from the Hattiesburg American with us to talk a little about this weekend’s UNT-Southern Miss game. Both teams are 2-4 on the season and 0-2 in Conference USA play. One can find Jason’s work for the paper on the American’s website, which also contains a link to his Southern Miss blog. Here’s what Jason had to say about Saturday’s game and the Southern miss program.
1. How much better is Southern Miss under second-year head coach Todd Moken this season?
I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s night and day, but Southern Miss has improved in a number of areas this season. Turnovers aren’t anywhere near as big a problem as they were last year. The offensive line has improved. The run game is better.
2. How much has Southern Miss quarterback Nick Mullens progressed?
Things are beginning to slow down for Nick. He’s not getting hit as much as last season, so that’s a big part of his development. His TD-to-INT ratio is better. He’s still got work to do. It’s important for people to realize, Nick’s most recent start was just his 12th at Southern Miss — the equivalent of a full season. So he’s still growing as a quarterback, but he’s better than he was as a true freshman.
3. How much better is Southern Miss defensively? UNT hung 55 points on the Golden Eagles last year.
The defense has been up and down this season. It still struggles to get off the field on third down. It’s still giving up too many big plays. The last couple of games, tackling has been an issue. And it has struggled to keep opponents off the scoreboard after the team’s offense scores. But, when its back is against the wall, it has been pretty good. It’s also creating far more turnovers than a year ago.
4. Who are USM’s key playmakers?
On offense, it’s primarily Nick Mullens (QB), George Payne (RB), and Michael Thomas (WR). You could throw Casey Martin (WR) in there as well. On defense, Dasman McCullum (DE) has been very good this season. Brian Anderson (LB) covers a lot of ground, and Jacorius Cotton (S) is the quarterback in the secondary.
5. How do you see this game playing out?
I’m picking Southern Miss to win this one. North Texas seems like it’s reeling right now, while Southern Miss looks to be putting things together slowly but surely. It just feels like these two teams are moving in opposite directions, which I believe will favor Southern Miss.