Next up for Southern Miss in their march toward a conference USA title is the Charlotte 49ers, who come to Hattiesburg for the first time when they will play the Golden Eagles in the Rock this Saturday.
Charlotte (3-5) is coming off a nice road win for the young FBS program when they knocked off Marshall 27-24 in a come from behind win. The 49ers have only been an FBS program now for 2 years, and have only had a football program for 4. Their current seniors came in as a 19 man freshman class and have helped to get the program off the ground as they seek their first bowl game.
Though the team is feeling good about itself after a road win and a bye week, things haven't been rosy for the 49ers this season, especially on the defensive side. They were thumped by Louisville 70-14 to open the season, then gave up 37, 48, and 52 points in their next three losses. They've been haunted by the same thing that USM had been struggling with this season; big, explosive plays.
October has been better for the 49ers, and they've been very competitive in the past three games. In those contests, Charlotte has had a 9 point difference in three games. They seem to have figured out some things and appear to be playing much better football.
Charlotte runs an up tempo spread offense and feature one of the best running backs in the conference in Kalif Phillips. In five games after returning from an injury, Phillips has rushed for 100+ yards in each of them. He's also ranked 9th among RB's in college football this year. In the past six games, Charlotte has had 8 rushers go over the 100 yard mark, including freshman Robert Washington, a real up and comer.
The 49ers have been balanced on offense this year, averaging 186 yards on the ground and 200 through the air. In each of the last three games, they have put up more offensive yardage than their opponents. The upward trend has been encouraging for the 49ers.
On defense, Charlotte is led by a dominant defensive lineman in senior Larry Ogunjobi. The huge run stopper is averaging 9 tackles in each of the past three games. He's led his defense to be pretty good against the run, and is second in the conference in tackles for loss. They rank 3rd against the run in conference allowing an average of 144 yards per game. The secondary is 2nd in the conference with 9 INT's on the season.
The 49ers also have a pair of LB's who are pretty good and fill the gaps well. Karrington King and Nick Cook, who both had double digit tackles two weeks ago against Marshall.
The secondary has been very suspect, however, and has given up a ton of yards through the air. This is certainly an area the Eagles can exploit, and should have no problem moving the ball through the air. All of the secondary is new this year, and while they do give up a lot of yards, they have 9 INT's on the season. Ed Rolle has had an INT in each of the last two games. That will be something to watch for the Eagles, who are looking to improve on their concerning turnover margin.
Here are some highlights of the 49ers on a game against Elon, their first win of the season:
Some notes on Southern Miss from SouthernMiss.com:
With their victory over the Thundering Herd, the Golden Eagles are now one win from bowl eligibility while also snapping a two-game overall losing streak and five-game skid to Marshall.
• The Golden Eagles improved to 58-22 in homecoming affairs, having now won consecutive homecomings as well as 12 over the past 16 seasons.
• Nick Mullens became the school’s all-time leader for passing yards with 11,057 yards, overtaking Austin Davis (2008-11). Mullens also has now thrown for 200 yards in 33 games to set the all-time record for most such performances as well as extended his school record of 300-yard passing games to 16 by finishing at 300.
• The Golden Eagles’ opening drive of 75 yards in 15 plays ties a season-high for most plays during a scoring drive. The LSU game’s first drive was also a 15-play, 75-yard march that ended in a short Ito Smith TD run.
• Ten of the past 12 Southern Miss scoring drives have been double-digit plays.
• Allenzae Staggers has a team-high six touchdown receptions on the year. He finished with seven catches for 99 yards, and those seven tie for the most by a Golden Eagle this season.
• Southern Miss gave up just 226 yards, the fewest by an FBS opponent since Rice had 214 in 2015.
• Southern Miss allowed just 60 rushing yards, its best showing since giving up 11 to Savannah State in the home opener. That number was also the lowest by an FBS team against the Golden Eagles since Louisiana Tech had negative-2 in 2015.
• Marshall converted just one of its 13 third-downs, the third time an opponent had just a single success against Southern Miss (Savannah State and UTEP). The Golden Eagles have allowed opponents to convert just 20 times in 94 attempts on third down this season for a 21% success rate which ranks second in the FBS.