Let's process our feelings. After the debacle of the Ellis Johnson "era," at Southern Miss, the Golden Eagles fanbase needed a coach that they could get behind. A coach was needed that would take all their fears of a post Larry Fedora era away.
With Johnson still in everyone's mind, the athletic department took a chance and brought in Monken from Oklahoma State. Monken was the third head coach at Southern Miss to get hired directly from the Cowboys. Monken was a coach that had yet to lead a program at the college level, but was experienced in running several offenses.
There were some shaky times early in his tenure, including a 1-11 season in 2013 and a 3-9 season in 2014. The 49-year old head coach finally broke through in 2015 with a 9-5 season that not only sent the Golden Eagles to a bowl game, but also won them the C-USA West Division. No one could ask for anything more from the third year head coach.
Monken has been famous during his time with Southern Miss for his straightforward personality. The only time he sidestepped something was the question of the starting quarterback heading into the season. That worked out fine. Monken always made players earn their spots in the starting lineup during his three years, bringing in lots of talent to compete with the rest of Conference USA.
Boy did he ever bring in some talent. The Golden Eagles have a chance at sending at least two players to the NFL, wide receiver Michael Thomas and cornerback Kalan Reed, and have stockpiled several important assets from the recruiting process. He has been able to use the JUCO route to bring in several talented players on both sides of the ball. Currently, the Golden Eagles have the #2 ranked recruiting class in C-USA according to 247Sports.
And then he leaves. The timing couldn't have been worse as the Southern Miss fan base was enjoying a classic AFC title game on television. Suddenly, twitter went crazy. A sudden press conference and rumors that Monken was leaving took over Hattiesburg. Less than an hour later, Monken spoke at a press conference for his resignation at Southern Miss to take the offensive coordinator job at Tampa Bay.
Surprisingly, the twitterverse was not too rough on Monken even though his departure could not have been at a worse time.
It's time to process your feelings about the sudden resignation of Monken and what he meant to the program. What did he mean to you as a fan and to the program as a whole? Would the hiring of Chip Lindsey make you quickly forget about Monken?
Here are my five favorite things about the Monken era in no particular order.
- First win as head coach: It was a rough 2013 season for Monken. He has just taken over the program and they were 0-11 and on a 23-game losing streak. The Golden Eagles flashed a moment of brilliance in dispatching UAB 62-27, scoring 30.2% of their points on the season in that game. It was the coming out part of quarterback Nick Mullens.
- His hat during summer practices: One of my favorite things about Monken is he ability to ignore all fashion sense. The floppy hat he wore leading up to the season was spectacular. It was a way of him showing everyone that all he cared about was getting the team better, looking good be damned. I may be putting too much depth into the hat, but I loved it.
- The rally at Nebraska: The first half versus Nebraska was the worst football Southern Miss played all season. They had no shot at making the game close in the second half. Then they went out and outplayed the Cornhuskers and had chances late to pull out the upset win. This fight back from adversity was Southern Miss under Monken in a nutshell.
- The blitzkrieg versus Louisiana Tech: With a chance to win the C-USA West on the line, Southern Miss led 24-17. The Bulldogs were looking like the team with momentum until one of the craziest 3:13 I have ever seen. Southern Miss scored touchdowns on four straight offensive plays while forcing three straight turnovers. The game was then essentially over with Southern Miss cruising to a 58-24 win.
- Bowling once again: It did not go the way the Golden Eagles faithful wanted in falling to Washington in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, but Southern Miss was bowling once again. To see a team that had lost 23-straight games and 32 of 36 bowling was an amazing moment for the Monken era.