HATTIESBURG -- Southern Miss football coach Todd Monken talked for three years about the importance of singing the school fight song after every victory.
He's getting a command performance this season.
In 2012, the team under coach Ellis Johnson went winless, so never sang it. In 2013, they won the final game of Monken's first season, over UAB. In 2014, they won three games.
But this year, the Golden Eagles sport a 5-3 record and have won their past two games, including last weekend's 44-10 victory over Charlotte, and have been singing the praises of winning football.
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"It's much better (singing it) at the end of the games, going home," said senior cornerback Kalen Reed, who came up with a spectacular interception against Charlotte, so good it ranked No. 8 on ESPN's Top 10 plays. "I barely sang the fight song here. Now we have to do it at team meetings to make sure everyone knows it, because coach was getting upset when people were just back there humming. It's definitely a good feeling."
For the record, Reed said he knew the words.
"I've always known it," he said with a smile.
Monken, whose team hosts UTEP in another Conference USA game at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, believes that singing the fight song relates to the joy of winning games.
"There's nothing like celebration," Monken said. "I don't care what you're doing. There's nothing like celebrating. If you're a lawyer and you win a big case, you're celebrating victory. Anything you get a reward for something you put everything in to, that's what it's about. If it wasn't about that, then I don't know why you do it.
"So for our team to continue to taste victory and appreciate it, that's what I think our guys have to understand. It's not easy. We've been through that. If it was that easy it wouldn't have taken us this long, so that's everything, those are the special moments to why you do it, to be in there with your team and to celebrate their success individually and collectively as a team."
The Golden Eagles are 3-1 in Conference USA, tied with Louisiana Tech for the top spot in the West Division.
At Monday's Southern Miss football press conference, not much was said about the Charlotte game except for its emotional value. Most of the talk centered on what was ahead.
"Do I think our guys are confident? Yes." Monken said. "I knew we were better, it was just a matter of doing it."
USM running back Jalen Richard was named the Conference USA Special Teams Player of the Week, primarily because of his 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Charlotte.
Richard ended his day with a game-high 222 all-purpose yards, collecting 114 on the ground, 9 in receiving, 95 in kickoffs and 4 in punt returns. Richard, a senior from Alexandria, La., leads the team in rushing this season with 681 yards.
Monken said that he expected running back Justice Hayes, who missed the Charlotte game due to injury, to be available for UTEP.