In a bleak Conference USA West division, Southern Mississippi University certainly has something to be excited about: the offense has appeared a well-oiled machine.
Forty-nine more points for the 15th best scoring offense in the country on Saturday has turned some heads and in a conference where big arms and brilliant numbers occur frequently, Golden Eagles quarterback Nick Mullens sticks out like a sore thumb.
His 1,691 passing yards is just a fraction of the 2,571 total yards Southern Mississippi has tallied, clocking in at No. 9 in the nation respectively. Some of the teams that the Golden Eagles have surpassed? Arizona, Louisiana Tech, Notre Dame, Ole Miss, Houston and Texas A&M.
And it isn’t the case of playing a cupcake schedule; the transition began early with some positive signs in the Week 1 showdown with Mississippi State.
Mullens had quietly thrown for 311 yards on 30 completions versus an SEC defense, while trailing the cowbell connoisseurs by just four points at half. Versus Nebraska two weeks later, the Golden Eagles may have stormed out of Lincoln with a win in their pockets had they not waited until the second half to get the offense ignited.
As for Texas State, Austin Peay and North Texas, all three were victims of this newfound offensive attack, as Mullens posted 11 touchdowns to just one interception in that stretch. Playing in a conference that isn’t highlighted for defensive structure, you can expect the Golden Eagles to have their way with a few of the upcoming opponents: four rank near the bottom of the list in terms of defensive yards given up (Texas-El Paso #122, Rice #117, Texas San-Antonio #98).
For Monken, the transition had to be something that would occur sooner than later. With 2013 being the first year at the helm, it was unfamiliar territory for the former Oklahoma State quarterbacks coach.
The Golden Eagles had ranked 118th in the nation via total offense and averaged just 17.1 points per game in the opening year with Monken leading the charge. Just a subtle step down from the No. 3 rank he helped the 2012 Cowboys team collect, as he had the luxury of signaling plays to the likes of Wes Lunt (now the University of Illinois quarterback) and J.W. Walsh.
The overall transition paints a large picture for the future of the program, but the development of Mullens and his counterparts has been merely fantastic. An inept group a year ago that struggled to hit paydirt last season is averaging 40.2 points per game and could very well rely on the offense to carry the team to a bowl game, something that hasn’t been accomplished since 2011.
Week 6 is when things get interesting as the Golden Eagles will travel to Huntington to take on Marshall as just touchdown underdogs. If anything from the sportsbooks hints at the improvement from Southern Mississippi, you have to take into account that the Thundering Herd were four-touchdown favorites a season ago, on the road.
If Monken was to head into West Virginia and nab a victory, then talks of perhaps an eight or nine-win season come into play. And if you’re decked out in black and yellow down in Mississippi, that calls for a round of applause.
Southern Mississippi trails Oregon by one slot in regards to total offense. Because we all could have predicted that one, right?