Southern Miss

Wins lift spirits for Southern Miss football

 Southern Miss quarterback Nick Mullens has helped lead the team to a 4-3 start to the season.
TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALD Southern Miss quarterback Nick Mullens has helped lead the team to a 4-3 start to the season. SUN HERALD

HATTIESBURG -- Four football wins might not seem like a big thing to most people, but for a team like Southern Miss that had won only four games total in the past three seasons, it's a pretty big deal.

"I feel like I have a little more swag," said redshirt junior offensive tackle Brandon Farmer, a Harrison Central product. "I walk with my head held up.

"I haven't had four wins under my belt in a long time. It feels good."

USM went 0-12 in 2012, 1-11 in 2013 and 3-9 in 2014.

"People definitely know who we are now, compared to last year," said USM placekicker Stephen Brauchle, a junior from Gulfport who on Monday was named the Conference USA Special Teams Player of the Week for kicking four field goals in a 32-10 Conference USA victory over UTSA,

And now, heading into Saturday's 11 a.m. game at Charlotte, the Golden Eagles are 4-3 overall and 2-1 in Conference USA. There is legitimate talk of qualifying for a bowl game in the postseason.

"The good news is when you start winning, every game is more important," Southern Miss coach Todd Monken said.

While no one is doing cartwheels, winning games certainly makes for better times.

"It's kind of nice to go out on Sunday nights knowing that you've got a little bounce in your step," defensive coordinator David Duggan said.

Monken admits he had the better team in last weekend's game against UTSA, but he doesn't want anybody to get complacent.

"We have four wins," Monken said. "We're in no position to settle."

He explained his thoughts about not wanting to celebrate too much at this point.

"Not very often do I want to think about two years ago," Monken said. "If you want to humble yourself, go back and look at yourself in 2013. We don't do that. We just move forward. I'm doing it better. The changes that we made have made us better. The talent has made us better. The culture we've created, the guys' attitude (has made us better)."

Monken admits there were growing pains trying to make the Golden Eagles competitive.

"I learned more in those two years (2013 and 2014) than I've learned in the other 25 years of coaching of how to continue to every day bring it and be positive and keep recruiting and that's what our job is, to continue to find a way," he said. "And if you need to change things, make changes where they need to be made to keep pushing your program forward, which we did."

The Eagles are 2-1 in Conference USA and are tied for the top spot in the West Division with Louisiana Tech and Rice.

Charlotte is 2-4 and 0-3, including a 37-34 loss to Old Dominion last week. The 49ers, who began football in 2013, and Golden Eagles have never played each other.

Big numbers: Jack Duggan, the Southern Miss Assistant Athletics Director/Media Relations, said Monday that research showed that the game against UTSA was the first time in school history that two running backs (Jalen Richard and Ito Smith) each ran for more than 100 yards and two receivers (D.J. Thompson and Mike Thomas) each had more than 100 yards receiving.