Southern Miss football in rebuilding mode

HATTIESBURG, MS (WLOX) - The Mississippi State Bulldogs are on solid foundation, while the once-proud Golden Eagles football program finds itself in a deep hole, one that is going to take time to dig out from.

Long-time head coach Jeff Bower kept Southern Miss as a prominent football institution over the years and Larry Fedora took a few years before he had the Golden Eagles atop Conference USA, before he left Hattiesburg for North Carolina.

Head coach Todd Monken inherited a Golden Eagles football team from head coach Ellis Johnson, a team...that was almost completely deleted of talent, talent that you must have to compete.

Johnson's only team at Southern Miss didn't win a game and Monken's first-year in Hattiesburg resulted in one victory.

Following the loss to Mississippi State Monken admitted his team is not happy, but he said on Monday his Golden Eagles lost to a very good SEC team.

"We are fine,"stated Monken. 'Disappointed, I am sure. It should sting. There is no way it should look like that. That is it. It is over. We were done with it starting yesterday. Now it is to move forward. I don't want our guys to forget in terms of the things they learned from the game. What did we see in the game? We are going to continue to improve. Every game you are going to get better, but don't dwell on it. Whether we lost by one or we lost by 49, it doesn't matter. It is one (game). We have to move forward. We can't let it eat us up this week and not play our best this weekend against Alcorn."

It's going to take time and that's something in this day-and-age of college football fans don't want to hear.

Signing quality athletes is the only way Southern Miss is going to be able to get back and become a factor in Conference USA.

Defensively the Golden Eagles are much improved over last season's team, two goal line stands against the Bulldogs proved that on Saturday.

Monken said," I thought our defensive line wasn't a mismatch. Mississippi State might say differently. I didn't think that we were overwhelmed up front. I felt from top to bottom, the ones, twos and threes, when Mississippi State subbed, I thought our guys held their own, which is a real positive. If you are good up front and you continue to move forward, then you are always going to have a chance. I thought we put pretty good pressure on (Dak Prescott) when he needed to throw. I thought we got good pressure. The problem is, we didn't put him in enough of those situations. We didn't help out offensively and defensively we didn't get him in enough third and longs. When we did, we put a lot of pressure on him."

Monken says his defense is going to improve each and every week.

"As our corners get better, Brian Anderson and our young linebackers get better and the young defensive linemen, we are just going to get better. We are going to improve greatly from game one to game two. I think you will see that Saturday night."

Monken says he doesn't believe his Golden Eagles were manhandled.

"It is unfair to say we got physically outmatched. We have to do it better as coaches. We have to figure out ways to run the football, how to not turn it over and how we can stop from getting beat up. A lot of things we did well defensively gave us a chance early. They just got worn down. Offensively, we made (the defense) play too many plays in the first half."

Sophomore quarterback Nick Mullens can heave the football, but he'll need better pass protection from his offensive line, before he'll have more success in the passing game. On Saturday he completed 20 of 42 attempts for 212 yards and two interceptions and was running for his life for much of the game.

Southern Miss entertains Alcorn State 6 p.m. Saturday in Hattiesburg.  The Braves beat Virginia Lynchburg 55 to 7 this past weekend.

Monken said, "They are excited about getting another opportunity and about coming home. They don't care who it is. It just happens to be Alcorn up the road. Our guys are ready to get that taste out of their mouths. There is nothing like singing the fight song in the locker room. That is what we are working towards. And we are working towards getting better. We have still have a lot of things to improve on, starting with me."

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