For the second consecutive season, Southern Miss will finish the year with a losing season after falling to North Texas 55-14 in their Homecoming game.
After 18 straight winning seasons for the Golden Eagles, they now face an unprecedented 19-game losing streak, the longest active streak in the nation. If USM fails to win a game this season, they will be the first team to post consecutive winless seasons since Kansas State 25 years ago. They have already sealed the first consecutive losing seasons since 1933-1934.
Under new head coach Todd Monken, many predicted that Southern Miss would turn things around and restore its winning tradition. However, USM football is at its lowest in program history.
With win-able games left on the schedule, USM could end their streak and end what is history in the making, but that accomplishment looks harder by the game, especially with the team appearing to have little to no confidence.
Early in the first quarter in Saturday’s loss, USM safety Ed Wilkins picked off Derek Thompson’s pass on the sideline to set up the Golden Eagles in great field position at North Texas’ 37-yard line. USM appeared to have all the momentum; the crowd was loud, the USM sideline was lively, and they had a chance to make an early statement.
However, the drive stalled and kicker Corey Acosta lined up for a 35-yard field goal. Acosta hooked the field goal wide left and the Golden Eagles were never the same. From that moment on, it appeared USM was dejected and North Texas took advantage.
Six plays later, Derek Thompson scrambled away from the pressure and instructed wide receiver Brelan Chancellor to break off his route and go deep. The two connected on a 46-yard touchdown that began the rout.
The USM offense didn’t respond and had a three-and-out which has become a recurring theme for the struggling offense. North Texas got the ball back and drove 78 yards in 13 plays for another touchdown.
Early in the second quarter, USM responded in a big way as true freshman quarterback Nick Mullens connected with Dominique Sullivan for a 59-yard touchdown pass to trim North Texas’ lead to 13-7.
That momentum did not last long as North Texas scored four more touchdowns before the end of the half and carried a 41-7 lead into halftime. The story was the same in the second half as the Mean Green cruised to a 55-14 victory.
The entire culture of Southern Miss football has to change in order for them to get back to winning games. Just two short years ago, USM was a top-20 team in the nation and knocked off sixth-ranked Houston in impressive fashion before winning the Hawaii Bowl.
There really is no single place to point the finger of blame. The two places everyone loves to point to when a team is struggling are head coach and quarterback, but a team needs consistency in these positions. Since former head coach Larry Fedora and former quarterback Austin Davis left, USM is on their second winless head coach and seventh quarterback.
But with this team, it goes way beyond the head coach and quarterback play. Monken and his coaching staff have put together some solid game plans this season, but those game plans have not been executed. The coaching staff has also been out coached in a few other instances this year as well.
“(North Texas) are an older, veteran group that outplayed us and out coached us tonight. We didn’t do the things that I talked about early in the game,” Monken said following the game.
Mullens, in his first start, showed flashes of play making ability during the game, but was very inconsistent in between the flashes. But Mullens is not to blame. There were several drops by the receivers; the offensive line was dominated in pass protection and the running game never got started.
The offense isn’t solely to blame either. USM’s defense couldn’t slow down the Mean Green offense and simply were horrific on third down as North Texas converted on 11 of 17 third downs.
USM simply got beat in all three phases: offense, defense and special teams. At this point, it is hard to figure out what USM can do to not only turn the season around, but the program as a whole.
It’s not up to Todd Monken, nor is it the responsibility of whoever lines up under center. It is up to the entire program to turn things around and end this streak.
The Golden Eagles will get another chance to right the sinking ship Nov. 2 when they travel to W. Va. to take on the Marshall Thundering Herd. Marshall has a prolific passing attack and has parlayed that into a 4-3 start so far this year.