The Golden Eagles of Southern Mississippi have acted out one of the best narratives in all of college football.
An impotent, addled program that functioned as the laughingstock of the conference has aimlessly sewed together just four wins in three seasons from 2011 to 2014. Projecting Southern Mississippi as potential title contenders in the thick of the preseason would have been a mere travesty.
Yet, a once-decrepit program found itself a lone quarter away from pulling off the impossible and etching its name as Conference USA champions. Taking that revamp into account is the sole reason that head coach Todd Monken was named Conference USA Coach of the Year.
It’s been a heartwarming transition for a program that wallowed in the depths of the nation just a few seasons ago. The change has been an uplifting revolution.
The Golden Eagles topped all C-USA teams in total defense by allowing just 364.7 yards per game. A unit that squandered a shade over five touchdowns per game last season chipped that number down to 24.2 in 2015.
That’s just a secondary accolade to how the offense performed.
Clocking in at second in the Conference USA via total offense, the Golden Eagles tallied 519.8 total yards per contest. Southern Mississippi had no offensive makeup in 2014; the 19 points per game speaks volumes to the mediocrity. 2015 saw the Golden Eagles climb to 40.8, while surpassing 50 points or more a grand total of five times, which marks a school record.
That offensive productivity stems from junior quarterback Nick Mullens, who raked in the award for Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year while nonchalantly shattering single-school records for completions and passing yards.
The hoard of achievements altered the course for a few pieces of the Golden Eagle puzzle. Offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey, who took over play-calling duties prior to 2015, will pack his bags and marry up with the Arizona State Sun Devils and replace former offensive coordinator Mike Norvell.
Monken told the Hattiesburg American late Thursday night that former special teams and wide receivers coach John Wozniak would be promoted to succeed Lindsey.
“I always thought John would do a great job as the coordinator,” said Monken. “You’ve always got to have somebody that’s in position to take that position over because we’re going to do what we do. We’re not changing. What we do is what I believe in, and I’m always going to be involved in the offense.”
Southern Mississippi will take its 9-3 record into the postseason and converge with the Washington Huskies on December 26th in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. Offense would have already been hard to come by versus a PAC 12 defense in Washington that’s holding opponents to just 17.8 points per game, which tops the conference. The Golden Eagles will orchestrate its high-powered unit without Lindsey, but it’s far from the ‘be all, end all.’
A shot at the Conference USA title, nine wins, and a post-Christmas bowl berth paves a gap for an opportunistic Monken.
“We have one more opportunity and we’ll prepare as hard as we ever have to try to finish the season off right.”
The season’s already been salvaged; Southern Mississippi is merely looking to cap a fruitful season.