HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - The Golden Eagles weren’t just 0-3.
They had just allowed the most points in M.M. Roberts Stadium history in a 42-point loss to rival Tulane.
Before interim head coach Scotty Walden began to tear apart game film, he shared with his team a video from retired naval officer and motivational speaker John Gretton “Jocko” Willink. The message – even when things are bad, there’s always going to be some good to come from it.
“The same points that he emphasized in the video, we had to reload, recalibrate and re-engage,” said USM sophomore defensive back Malik Shorts.
“I feel like there’s not team in America that’s been through what we’ve been through, all the adversity," said USM junior defensive back Natrone Brooks. "Coach Walden just does a good job - no matter what you go through, there’s always going to be something good come out of it if you just keep fighting, keep fighting and never giving up.”
“It was neat because even on the sideline on Saturday, they’d score a touchdown, they’d answer and the guys would kinda look at me and say, ‘Good,’" said USM offensive line coach Ryan Stanchek. "I was like, okay, I like it. Good, great.”
What Southern Miss did at North Texas to grab its first win of the year goes beyond the 202 yards gained on the ground or the key defensive stops.
The young Eagles played with poise as the game begins to slow down.
“It’s almost like being a hitter," Stanchek said. "When you go out there and you haven’t seen a 98 MPH fastball, it looks really fast right? But when you see some of those fastballs, eventually it slows down for you. I think our guys, the game’s slowing down for them a little bit.”
“Coach Walden kinda preaches that all the time, don’t act like we’re up," said USM defensive coordinator Tony Pecoraro. "We’re supposed to be up. So when we’re up, let’s finish the job. I thought the sideline did a great job of handling all the adversity throughout the game.”
There’s no doubt USM’s seen its fair share of adversity this year – starting with the resignation of head coach Jay Hopson after the Eagles first game against South Alabama.
But it’s amazing how one win can change the outlook of a season – a season with plenty of games left to play.
“All the players that’s here now, everybody wants to be here and nobody’s giving up even though we lost three games in a row," Brooks said. "Everybody’s still locked in and buying in and nobody was like, ‘Ah man we’re not going to be good, we can’t win.’ Everybody’s still hey, one game at a time.”