Three seasons of no bowl appearances and just four wins in three years. That was Southern Miss football from 2012-14, with no end in sight.
Seasons come and go, and some are forgotten over time. But the season the Golden Eagles recently had, should be stamped into the hearts and minds of everyone, not just USM fans.
The 2015 football campaign was not just a comeback season, but also a historic one. Southern Miss finished their season with a 4,000 yard quarterback in Nick Mullens, a 1,000 yard receiver in Michael Thomas and two 1,000 yard running backs with Ito Smith and Jalen Richard, respectively.
That was not all. Records came crashing down and new ones were raised by the likes of Mullens, Casey Martin, Kalan Reed, Mike Thomas. Not only those players made an impact, but many more added their names to the record books.
Records were not the only things that made headlines in the Golden Eagles’ historic 2015 season. There were wins, but they did not come at first. Losses to Mississippi State, Nebraska and then Marshall were crippling to Southern Miss as they started off their season with a record of 3-3.
Then something happened. No one could explain it, but it just happened. An improbable seven-game win streak capped off by the dismantling of the Conference USA Western Division front-runners, Louisiana Tech, 58-24. That is when everything changed.
It was not when Southern Miss gave Mississippi State a closer game than expected. It was not a narrow loss to Nebraska and not even the seven-game win streak.
It was not when USM became bowl eligible. It was when Michael Thomas made an impossible, one-handed catch to put Southern Miss ahead two scores going into halftime during the Louisiana Tech game.
That was when Southern Miss’ fortunes changed for the better.
It was the fans in the stands singing the fight song while behind the Louisiana Tech field house, and the Golden Eagles were given Western Division Champion t-shirts.
After an absolute beat-down of one of the longtime powers in C-USA, suddenly, USM was flying high and no one could beat them. There were even talks the Golden Eagles could snatch their first C-USA Championship in three seasons.
Something else happened again, but this time, not for the Golden Eagles’ good fortunes. Bad luck and karma struck the Golden Eagles’ chord. The injury bug bit the Golden Eagles in their biggest game since 2011. The result? A 45-28 loss to the eventual C-USA Champions Western Kentucky.
Still, there was hope. There was still the bowl game and head coach Todd Monken said most of the injured players would return from injuries suffered against WKU. Those players returned, but it just was not enough to take down the Washington Huskies.
Southern Miss fought well, but were outmatched by their Pac-12 foe and lost, 44-31. Despite not getting a bowl ring or a conference championship ring, something changed at Southern Miss for the better.
It was an unforgettable season. A season that righted the ship and motivated the entire fan base. Monken made things right again. He brought Southern Miss back and with talks of Athletic Director Bill McGillis extending Monken and giving him a raise, Southern Miss should get used to being in the spotlight once again.