Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

MARSHALL FOOTBALL ; Herd Faces Another Former MU Assistant in Hopson

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

MARSHALL FOOTBALL ; Herd Faces Another Former MU Assistant in Hopson

Article excerpt

MARSHALL AT SO. MISS When: 7 p.m. Saturday TV: American Sports Network Latest line: Southern Miss by 15

HUNTINGTON - For the second week in a row, Marshall faces off against a head coach who is a former Thundering Herd assistant. Last week, it was Charlotte's Brad Lambert, who worked through the Jim Donnan era (1990-95). This week, it's Southern Mississippi's Jay Hopson, who served for Bob Pruett (1996-2000).

That perfectly frames MU's "The Decade, The Dynasty. But as the coaching world turns, the Thundering Herd is in danger of going 0-2 against them.

Following its 24-21 home loss to Charlotte, the Herd (2-5 overall, 1-2 Conference USA) must face Hopson's Golden Eagles (4-3, 2-1) at M.M. Roberts Stadium at Hattiesburg. Kickoff is at 7 p.m., with the game airing on American Sports Network.

Hopson is a Mississippi native, and this is his third stint in Hattiesburg, the last being defensive coordinator from 2005-07. From there, he went to Michigan before resurfacing in Conference USA with Memphis (2010-11). Along the way, he beat testicular cancer not once, but twice.

Then he received his first head coaching job, at Alcorn State - an eyebrow-raiser, considering he was the first white head coach at a Southwestern Athletic Conference program. His coaching experience and deep Mississippi roots carried him through an emotional, controversial hiring process.

His success with what was as struggling program was almost immediate, as the Braves went 32-17 and won two SWAC championships. He was digging in for a fifth season when "sudden change - that ol' football term - hit Southern Miss.

Todd Monken, who righted a wrecked Southern Miss ship and won C- USA's West Division in 2015, became one of those hot coaching commodities, the name often mentioned during the coaching "silly season. When jobs at Illinois, Virginia and elsewhere were filled, Eagle fans exhaled.

Until that 2-by-4 known as the NFL smacked them upside the head. On Jan. 24 - 10 days before national signing day - Monken was announced as the new offensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Hopson knew the way to Hattiesburg, and Southern Miss had his phone number. The only question would be the smoothness of transition.

So far, so good.

"I think the biggest thing is keeping the culture, said Southern Miss quarterback Nick Mullens. "Coach Hopson, he's an old-school ball coach; that's what I love about him. He's going to preach confidence, talk us into precision and execution and high energy, hard work. The things he preaches, we've really bought into.

At Marshall, coaches have taken note of Hopson's background. He was a defensive backs coach at MU, and also has tutored linebackers. Hopson brought his defensive coordinator, Tony Pecoraro, over from Alcorn State.

"They create a lot of chaos, said MU offensive coordinator Bill Legg. …

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