HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Just seven games into his collegiate career, and Southern Mississippi quarterback Nick Mullens already finds himself on a shortlist with the legendary Brett Favre.
In 1987, Favre became the first true freshman starting quarterback in Golden Eagles history. Last Saturday, Mullens became the fifth.
"It's pretty incredible to come that far," Mullens said. "I'm just ready to continue on."
Mullens gets his second start under center Saturday, when Southern Miss (0-7, 0-3 Conference USA) visits Marshall (4-3, 2-1 C-USA) at noon on CBS Sports Network.
True freshman starting quarterbacks at Southern Miss have seen more disappointment than joy in their first starts. Three of the five, including Favre and Mullens, have lost that game. Favre lost 27-14 to Texas A&M, while Mullens lost 55-14 to North Texas, throwing three interceptions and losing two fumbles on sacks.
Yet the Golden Eagles' original starter this season, senior transfer Allan Bridgford, hadn't done so hot either. Bridgford, a transfer from Cal, threw for 377 yards in USM's season opener, but started out 2-for-11 for 15 yards against East Carolina. First-year Eagles coach Todd Monken pulled Bridgford for Mullens, and Mullens responded by completing 9-of-17 passes for 97 yards and two scores against the Pirates. That spurred Monken to give Mullens the reins versus North Texas.
While Mullens struggled, Monken said he liked the young quarterback's poise and maturity.
"I think he's got tremendous mental toughness," Monken said during his weekly press conference. "He's a smart player. I think he's accurate. I think he's got leadership qualities and I think we've done a good job of just talking about the next play. We're building.
"You can't do anything about the last play, go to the next play," he continued. "All these opportunities that you're going to get - practice and reps you're getting during the game, you're only going to build on. I think he gets that."
While Monken considers Mullens a good student of football, Mullens said Monken was a great teacher. Monken came to USM after two seasons as Oklahoma State's offensive coordinator, where he guided quarterback Brandon Weeden and receiver Justin Blackmon to eye-popping numbers.
"It's awesome, being able to go in and prepare for a team like Marshall, just talk football and learn about the game," he said. "To have a head coach like Coach Monken, it's great to have a head coach like that."