USM looking to improve in Thursday night matchup

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Head coach Todd Monken speaks with his players during the last home game against Marshall. The Eagles head to San Antonio to play UTSA this Thursday in the hopes of becoming 4-7.

Caption: Head coach Todd Monken speaks with his players during the last home game against Marshall.  The Eagles head to San Antonio to play UTSA this Thursday in the hopes of becoming 4-7. – Susan Broadbridge/Printz Photo Editor

The Golden Eagles are no longer bowl eligible after dropping their last contest 63-17 to Marshall. With a 3-7 record and only two games remaining, the Golden Eagles are playing for pride and building for the future now.

The Golden Eagles went down fighting against Marshall and scored the first 14 points in the ball game after a gutsy onside kick by head coach Todd Monken. Monken said after the game that he intended to kick onside kicks all game until Marshall recovered one.

After an offsides penalty negated the second successful onside kick, Thundering Herd quarterback Rakeem Cato stepped on the field and dominated to keep Marshall undefeated.

The same problems that have affected the Golden Eagles all season continued to plague them against Marshall. After sustaining several drives and chewing some clock, Southern Miss made errors that cost them chances to score points.

“That has been kind of unfortunate as we are going through these growing pains as a coaching staff and playing. We don’t find a way to score enough on opportunities we’ve been given,” Monken said. “We, for the last five or six weeks, have done a pretty nice job of moving the ball. We just haven’t been able to sustain those drives and consistently get touchdowns.”

The Golden Eagles will have to forget the game quickly with a Thursday night matchup with UTSA. The short week makes things harder for coaches and players. Not enough preparation time and little rest from a four-quarter battle the previous Saturday is taxing for all parties.

UTSA comes into the contest with only two wins on the season and match up poorly with the Golden Eagles. They have been highlighted by great defensive play and pitiful offensive production, which should play into the Golden Eagles’ hands.

The Roadrunners will have an advantage on Thursday that most Golden Eagle fans will not remember. Head coach Larry Coker was not always at UTSA. He once was the head coach of the Miami Hurricanes from 2001-2006.

The stint with the Hurricanes included a national championship in 2001 with players such as Jeremy Shockey, Ed Reed, Andre Johnson and Sean Taylor. They went to the national championship again the following year, but lost in overtime to Ohio State.

“Coach Coker has done a great job,” Monken said. “He did a great job at Miami. It is not easy to start a program and then jump right into Division I. They had a tremendous year last year. That is not easy. They are always well prepared. It is not like they are doing unsound things. They have just had some unfortunate things happen to them at the quarterback position.”

UTSA is in a similar situation the Golden Eagles were last year. Their quarterback went down and in came a young, inexperienced quarterback who is asked to lead.

Things are looking up for the Golden Eagles coming off a short week. Quarterback Nick Mullens has been upgraded from questionable to probable and he looks to start against UTSA.

Mullens will have little preparation time when he goes against one of the better defenses in Conference USA. UTSA is led by eight seniors on defense who are the heart and soul of the team.

“They play awfully hard defensively. They have seven or eight senior starters with a number of senior and junior backups,” Monken said.“That is one thing you can say about them. I don’t think they are very complicated, but I think they are very sound in what they do. They play hard and they challenge you.”

The Golden Eagles have done nothing more than stretch and try to get their bodies back in game shape this week. The Golden Eagles left Wednesday to travel to San Antonio and play in the Alamodome later tonight.

Southern Miss hopes they can end the season on a high note and win their last two remaining ball games to send their seniors out the right way. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.