BATON ROUGE, La. — For the second consecutive LSU home game, it’s easy to forget that the Tigers are facing an actual opponent.
Two weeks ago Ed Orgeron made his debut leading the Tigers, so the fact Missouri was also on the field was largely lost in the shuffle. It’s the same feeling this week as all of the week’s energies were spent either mourning the late Mike VI or being infuriated at Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley before finally getting the news that the Gators will unexpectedly visit Baton Rouge on Nov. 19.
But before that game there is one against Southern Miss this Saturday. And the Golden Eagles are dangerous, having opened their season with a win over a Kentucky team that is not quite as horrific as it originally appeared to be.
Hickey: First-year coach Jay Hopson has a fascinating career arc. What was the initial reaction to his hire, and how is the fan base taking to him this season? (Hopson was hired from Alcorn State in January when Todd Monken joined the staff of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.)
Munz: The majority of the Southern Miss fan base took to Hopson immediately. This is his third stint in Hattiesburg, so he’s almost like a native son. He’s a Mississippi guy and Southern Miss had a lot of success while he was on staff here under Jeff Bower. There were those – like there are everywhere for every coaching change – that would like to have seen a bigger name. But the initial reaction was mostly positive.
Hickey: What differences do you see in the Golden Eagles from last year?
Munz: It’s mostly on defense. The offense is largely the same. The defense is more aggressive (which has cost it a few times) this season. More active and more multiple than in recent years.
Hickey: How healthy is QB Nick Mullens heading into this game, and if he has to come out who is taking his place?
Munz: I wouldn’t say he’s 100 percent. But he’s probably not far from it. The thumb on his throwing hand got banged up pretty good last week. He hit it on an opponent’s helmet on the follow-through of his passing motion. He missed a series before coming back in and throwing for 81 yards and a touchdown in the last quarter. He’s practiced all week and doesn’t seem to be any worse for wear. But if he has to come out, he’ll likely be replaced by Parker Adamson.
Hickey: Is this defense the one that got just enough stops to pull out a win at Kentucky, or the one that got steamrolled by UTSA? What are the reasons for the inconsistency?
Munz: Last week against UTSA was really the only game this season the defense has been beaten pretty much from beginning to end. So it’s reasonable to assume that it was an aberration. But, you’re right, it has been inconsistent. Part of it could be that ultra-aggressive mentality. Some players might be trying to do too much, and in turn, abandoning their primary responsibility.
Hickey: How much is USM’s last trip to Tiger Stadium steeped in school lore to this day?
Munz: You know, it’s weird. People don’t talk nearly as much about that game as they do about beating Alabama in 1982 to end Bear Bryant’s long home winning streak. Or beating Florida State, Alabama, Louisville (twice) and Auburn in a two-season span (1989-90). But beating LSU in ’94 is certainly way up there.