By Logan Lowery
STARKVILLE – Southern Miss head coach Todd Monken has made only one visit to Davis Wade Stadium – in 2005, while serving as receivers coach at LSU.
The Tigers manhandled Sylvester Croom’s Mississippi State squad 37-7 that day, but Monken will be the first to admit that the Bulldogs have undergone a lot of transformations since then.
“Mississippi State has changed,” Monken said. “You talk about the last four years. You talk about attendance. You talk about bowl games. You talk about facility upgrades. You talk about the excitement of that program. It is unparalleled. It is a lot different going there now than it was 10 years ago.”
MSU has capitalized on the success of four straight bowl appearances under Dan Mullen and are set to open a newly renovated $75 million expansion at their 100 year old venue.
Monken is hoping to invoke a similar revolution at Southern Miss in his second season at the helm. The Golden Eagles suffered through 23 consecutive losses the last two years until a season-ending 62-27 win at UAB.
Monken will find out just how much his Golden Eagles have improved in the offseason in Week 1 on the road at Mississippi State.
“It is always an indicator of where you are at when you get to play a quality opponent like Mississippi State,” Monken said.
“You will find out exactly where the improvements have come. That will be a hard place to play on the road. Our players know that. We are going to find out exactly where we are at and how far we have come and where we have got to go.”
The area that concerns Monken the most about the Bulldogs is their defensive front seven. MSU returns a wealth of experience at those positions from a defense that ranked fourth in the Southeastern Conference against the run.
Southern Miss struggled on the ground last season averaging just 2.6 yards per carry and 72.9 yards a game.
“They present lots of problems,” Monken said. “They’re big, physical, athletic and have only gotten better.
“They are all draft picks and that is the biggest thing. They are difficult to handle because they don’t do a lot, but do it really, really well and they play hard. We are going to have our work cut out for us throwing and running it.”