With less than a minute left in the fourth quarter, Boise St. carried the ball through the middle of the offensive line and an exhausted Southern Miss team could only watch as time expired and another loss was scribbled in the column.
Under the noise of the remaining Boise St. faithful in the stands, the Golden Eagles slowly walked off the blue turf to begin their trip back to Hattiesburg. Although nothing has changed in the win column since December 2011, one thing remains the same: the loyalty of Southern Miss fans.
“I still support them and will continue to support them regardless of their wins and losses,” said senior Tyler Burleson. “That’s what being a fan is; you support your team through wins and losses – championships and winless seasons.”
Through his years at the university, Burleson stresses the idea of patience and understanding for a team that has changed so much in so little time.
“The team needs to know that we as students and fans still support them,” he said. “I couldn’t imagine anything more demoralizing for an athlete than thinking the people you represent don’t support you or only care when you’re winning.”
The Eagles have seen the pinnacle of Conference USA in 2011 when the team went 12-2, including a victory in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl over Nevada. Three coaches later, the team has encountered a new low: The nation’s current longest losing streak with 16 losses in a row.
“I feel that the team being winless is not entirely their fault, but is more of the position that they are in from last year’s season,” said freshman Jared Dumas. “I think instead of trying to start the number of freshmen that they do, they need to put more emphasis on the upperclassmen.”
Led by a first-year quarterback, young receiving corps and an inexperienced offensive line, the Eagles’ offense encountered timing issues on routes and poor blocking when setting up protection. Freshman receivers have caught 45 of the team’s 88 receptions this season.
“Hopefully, they will eventually get that offensive guru they keep searching for,” said Tony Purvis, a local fan who has attended more than 25 games. “I just always seem to blame a coach, because I feel a good coach can win anywhere in any circumstance.”
Head coach Todd Monken hasn’t notched his first victory yet. Despite having record-breaking success as Oklahoma State’s offensive coordinator, the first-year coach’s team is afflicted with turnovers and an inability to consistently sustain successful drives to put points on the board.
“I do not like the losing streak, but I am smart enough to know that our team, in general, has been through a lot of adversity over the past two years,” said James Garner. “Yes, [the losses] hurt, but you have to accept the entire process that has taken place.”
Garner is an alumnus of the university and hasn’t missed a home game in four years.
“With different coaches there are different game plans in play, all of which require our young team to refocus all over again to another coach’s offensive and defensive schemes,” he said. “Monken, in my opinion, has far less talent [than Ellis Johnson] on the field but is doing a better job coaching them up. I like his energy. I like his enthusiasm, and I love his will to win! We will get there; let’s just rally around this coach, this team and be true Golden Eagle fans!”
Southern Miss will host the winless Florida International Golden Panthers Oct. 5 at The Rock. Regardless of a win or loss, the stadium will be packed, and the Golden Eagles’ faithful will embrace and cheer every snap.