LINCOLN, Neb. - After playing Mississippi State close into the second half in week one, Southern Miss (2-1) will head to Lincoln this weekend to take on a Nebraska squad below .500 in the month of September for the first time since 1981.
The Huskers lost to Miami 36-33 on the road last weekend, after finding themselves down 27-3 at one point in the third quarter.
“I think that they do understand the gravity of losing and how close and unforgiving this game can be,” said Nebraska head coach Mike Riley, when asked about the gravity of the start of his era. “These guys care, everybody cares, everybody’s hurting, but like I said that’s one side of it. It’s kind of what we can do with it. I certainly don’t ever ignore the things that have to get better, but I will because there’s a lot of football ahead of us, a lot of stuff out there for us to still go after, so you’ve got to kind of approach it in a way of 'this is how we can fix it.'”
Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong will likely come into the contest carrying over momentum from his second half performance against Miami. On the Huskers last three drives in regulation, Armstrong threw three touchdown passes. The junior has thrown for 200 yards in six straight contests – dating back to last year, the second longest streak in Nebraska history.
“I thought Tommy for the majority of it was outstanding,” said Riley. “He made some big-time reads and throws. Guys were making plays. All that is good. We all know the bad parts. We had to do that because of the situation we put ourselves in. That’s the hard part, and then not finishing it. We had them on the ropes, and didn’t finish.”
What a win means for Nebraska: A win would get the Huskers back to .500 and a little momentum heading into Big Ten play – assuming they win like they are supposed to (21-point favorite in Vegas). This is a game Nebraska has to come out strong. A small margin victory will likely cause more whispers of concern among the fan base.
What a win means for Southern Miss: It wouldn’t necessarily be a top five program win, but after finishing 12-2 in 2012, the Golden Eagles are just 6-33 since. For a program looking for some momentum, a win in Lincoln would be it. Something very nice to sell to recruits.
Who to watch on offense and defense:
WR.) Stanley Morgan – The true freshman wide receiver’s numbers have gone up each game as he gets more opportunities to prove himself. The running game will likely get plenty of opportunities on Saturday, but don’t be surprised to see another 250+ yard passing effort out of quarterback Tommy Armstrong – this will include some targets to Morgan, who scored his first touchdown last week.
LB.) Marcus Newby – The linebacker will be filling in for Michael Rose, who’s out at least four weeks with a groin injury. Newby started against South Alabama in week two, but the Huskers’ defense played a lot of nickel, meaning opportunities were limited. He only recorded one tackle. If middle linebacker Josh Banderas does miss the contest, Newby would become the most experienced player at the linebacker spot.
Keys for Nebraska over Southern Miss: In Nebraska’s two losses, the Huskers were outscored 44-17 in the first half. A strong start, especially during an 11 a.m. contest, will be crucial for the Huskers.
The Golden Eagles are averaging over 300 passing yards a contest, good for No. 27 in the country. Against a solid Mississippi State squad, quarterback Nick Mullens was 30-for-44, racking up 311 yards through the air. Currently Nebraska is giving up a ton of passing yards. Somehow the Huskers will have to try to slow the Golden Eagles passing attack.
Did you know? Nebraska is 12-1 against Conference USA members. Their one loss - to Southern Miss in 2004, 24-17.
Quote to note: “I remember him telling me when we were down before I scored the touchdown, I remember him telling me we were going to come back and win the game. We went out and started making big plays. I was walking back to the sideline after we scored and I sitting there thinking then I looked at him and he just nodded like we are about to do this. We just took off from there. The leadership, we trust him.” – Alonzo Moore, WR on Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong at Miami
Josh Harvey’s prediction: Nebraska will start fast, run the ball early, and force a couple turnovers on defense. While I don’t expect them to cover the spread, I do expect the game to never really be in doubt. Huskers get back to .500 in this one, 42-24.