Nebraska looking for a feel-good win against Southern Miss
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) Southern Mississippi would seem the perfect tonic for a Nebraska team coming off another close loss.
Saturday's game is at home and the Golden Eagles have lost 33 of their last 39, including six in a row against opponents from the Power Five conferences.
The Cornhuskers (1-2) are in no position to look past any opponent, though, not after losing to BYU at home on a Hail Mary and in overtime at Miami last week.
The record doesn't necessarily show it, but Southern Miss (2-1) is an improving program under third-year coach Todd Monken. The Eagles played Mississippi State tough in their opener and has scored 108 points the last two weeks, albeit against FCS Austin Peay and relatively new FBS program Texas State.
''We're not about to go out there and play some scrubs,'' Huskers offensive lineman Chongo Kondolo said. ''They're a team that will beat us if we go out there flat and not ready to play.''
The Eagles are averaging almost 42 points a game to rank 23rd nationally. Their defense, however, is giving up 30 points a game to rank 90th, and they've surrendered a total of 486 yards on the ground against their two FBS opponents.
Quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. said he expects Southern Miss to provide more of a challenge than it did two years ago, when Nebraska beat the Eagles 56-13 in Lincoln.
''We've got to make sure we study them as well as we can and just make sure that we prepare for anything because coming off a loss like this (against Miami), we've got to make sure we bounce back right,'' Armstrong said.
Southern Miss junior quarterback Nick Mullens has been sharp, for the most part, completing 64 percent of his passes for 306 yards a game and eight touchdowns. He played the last two series of the 2013 meeting, throwing the last of his team's four interceptions. Mullens became the starter four games later, and Southern Miss finished 1-11.
''We went up there a couple years ago and didn't put our best foot forward,'' Monken said, ''but we are significantly better now than we were then.''
Things to know about the teams' third meeting in four years:
FREQUENT FOES: Nebraska and Southern Miss have played five times since 1999. The Golden Eagles' only win came against the Bill Callahan-coached Huskers, 21-17 in Lincoln in 2004. The Huskers dominated in 2012 and '13, winning by a combined 105-33. No future meetings are scheduled.
BIG PLAY BONANZA: The Eagles have had 18 plays from scrimmage go 20 yards or longer, and they're tied for fourth nationally with 13 plays of 30-plus yards. Nebraska's defense has given up 13 plays of 30-plus yards, the third-worst mark in the country.
IT'S HOMECOMING: Nebraska will be facing a nonconference opponent on homecoming for the third time since 1955. The Huskers are 78-22-4 on homecoming.
I REMEMBER YOU, TOMMY? Monken recalled meeting Armstrong at a camp in San Antonio when Monken was an Oklahoma State assistant. Armstrong already had an offer to play quarterback at Nebraska, and OSU wasn't in the market for a QB that year. Monken said he tried to convince Armstrong to move to safety or wide receiver and consider going to OSU. Monken also told Armstrong that Nebraska probably would move him to another position anyway. The argument didn't sway Armstrong, now in his third year as the starting QB. ''To be real honest with you, I'm sad they haven't moved him,'' Monken said. ''He is going to be a handful.''
FAVRE FACTOR: Armstrong for the second year in a row worked out with former Southern Miss and NFL great Brett Favre in Hattiesburg in the offseason. Armstrong spent part of his childhood in Mississippi, and Favre is a friend of his father, Tommy Sr. Armstrong said early in the week that he hadn't spoken with Favre about the game.
AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org