Location: Hattiesburg, Miss.
Coach: Todd Monken
Record: 0-1 (0-0 Conference USA)
Series with Nebraska: Nebraska leads, 3-1.
Last game: Lost to Texas State, 22-15
First-year Southern Miss coach Todd Monken is familiar with not only Nebraska, but its coaching staff. Husker coach Bo Pelini was defensive coordinator at LSU from 2005-07, and Monken was wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator for the Tigers from 2005-06. Also, Nebraska defensive coordinator John Papuchis and secondary coach Terry Joseph were graduate assistants at LSU when Monken was with the Tigers. “Bo does a great job, as good a coach as you’ll find, and I consider him a friend in the profession,” Monken said. “I’m excited to see those guys.” Monken, who spent the past two seasons as Oklahoma State’s offensive coordinator, also was the Cowboys’ wide receivers coach in 2002, when OSU ended its 36-year winless streak against the Huskers with a 24-21 victory in Stillwater.
Southern Miss carries a 13-game losing streak into Lincoln, the longest active losing streak among FBS teams. It started with last year’s 49-20 season-opening loss to Nebraska, and led to the firing of coach Ellis Johnson after only one season. When does the streak end? The Golden Eagles likely will be underdogs in every game of their three-game, four-week road swing that begins Saturday. After playing at Nebraska, Southern Miss plays at Arkansas on Sept. 14 and at Boise State on Sept. 28.
Say this about those six Southern Mississippi turnovers in Saturday’s season opener: The Golden Eagles spread the wealth around. Five different players were responsible for those turnovers. Quarterback Allan Bridgford threw two interceptions, both in the fourth quarter, including one in the final minute, near midfield, as the Golden Eagles tried to rally. Running backs Tyre Bracken and Kendrick Hardy each lost a fumble, as did freshman wide receiver Tyre’oune Holmes. Jalen Richard fumbled a punt return.
Golden Eagles on offense
When Southern Miss moved the football on Texas State, it did so through the air. Senior quarterback Allan Bridgford, a graduate transfer from Cal, threw for 377 yards, using a variety of passes, although his completion percentage was a mere 52.8 percent (28-of-53). He threw one touchdown, two interceptions and was sacked three times.
Bridgford’s favorite target was freshman receiver Tyre’oune Holmes, who caught 12 passes for 96 yards — the second-best, single-game reception total in school history, and the most by a Southern Miss rookie.
Another newcomer, junior transfer Rickey Bradley, had 193 receiving yards on seven receptions, including grabs of 65, 59 and 31 yards.
The Southern Miss rushing game? Pretty nonexistent. The Golden Eagles had 24 rushes for 23 yards.
“I’m still not sold that we have to run the ball for 200 yards,” coach Todd Monken said. “What I’m sold on is that we have to be able to run it when we want to run it, to be balanced and not turn the dang thing over.”
Monken said Southern Miss needs to be more creative when it does rush the ball, and needs better blocking from its tight ends and fullbacks.
Offensive averages/national rank (2012)
15.0 / 90
400.0 / 65
23.0 / 110
377 / 11
Golden Eagles on defense
What Southern Miss did defensively against Texas State resembled more of what the Golden Eagles did two seasons ago, when whey ranked No. 29 nationally in total defense and No. 26 in scoring defense, than what they did last year, when Southern Miss ranked No. 83 and No. 113, respectively, in those categories.
The common link is defensive coordinator David Duggan, who was the Golden Eagles’ co-defensive coordinator in 2011, but left last season to become linebackers coach at North Carolina. He’s back, and so may be the Golden Eagles’ bravado on defense.
Southern Miss allowed only 207 yards to Texas State and forced one turnover, a fumble. The Golden Eagles posted 11 tackles for minus yardage, led by senior linebacker Alan Howze, who had 2.5.
The one bugaboo: Of those 207 yards by Texas State, 75 came on one fourth-quarter drive, when the Bobcats, ahead by one, used seven plays to score a clinching touchdown. Texas State quarterback Tyler Arndt completed on third-and-19 from the TSU 16-yard line to spark the drive.
Defensive averages / national rank
22.0 / 48
207.0 / 9
73.0 / 15
134.0 / 19
Golden Eagles on special teams
Kicker Corey Acosta took over full-time duties last season, beginning with the Golden Eagles’ opener at Nebraska, when he made field goals of 45 and 37 yards. He made field goals of 50 and 51 yards later in the season, and overall is 15-of-22 on field goals for his career; he was wide right from 30 yards last week against Texas State.
Sophomore Matthew Moseley is in his first season as starting punter. Moseley had a 38.3-yard average on six punts last week against Texas State, including punts of 27 and 54 yards.
Of the Golden Eagles’ four lost fumbles Saturday, one came on a punt return. Southern Miss also allowed a 29-yard punt return that set up a Texas State touchdown.
Players to watch
Allan Bridgford, QB, sr., 6-3, 210 pounds
The Cal transfer beat out junior Cole Weeks and true freshman Nick Mullens for the starting job, then threw for 377 yards in his debut.
Alan Howze, LB, sr., 6-3, 227 pounds
Howze is the Golden Eagles’ leading returning tackler from last season, when he had 66 tackles. He had six against Nebraska, including one for loss, and a team-high nine last week against Texas State.
Rickey Bradley, WR, sr., 6-2, 204 pounds
Bradley’s 193 receiving yards last week were fourth-most in a game in school history, and he did that while still not fully recovered from a shoulder sprain he suffered in fall camp.