Western Kentucky earned one of the spots in the Conference USA championship game on Black Friday. A day later, they learned who will be their competition on the other sidelines next weekend.
Southern Miss and Louisiana Tech came into their game Saturday tied atop the West division standings at 6-1, effectively turning the contest into a play-in game. Thanks to a huge day from quarterback Nick Mullens, the Golden Eagles jumped out to a 24-10 halftime and really poured it on in the fourth quarter in rolling to a 58-24 win over the Bulldogs.
Mullens passed for 386 yards and three touchdowns in the win. It was Ito Smith, though, who put the final nails in the Bulldogs’ coffin as the USM back ran for three fourth-quarter touchdowns to turn the game into a rout.
With the win, Southern Miss will move on to face Western Kentucky in the conference championship game next Saturday afternoon in Bowling Green. The Hilltoppers finished a perfect 8-0 in conference play to the Golden Eagles’ 7-1, giving WKU the home-field advantage.
Southern Miss will be playing in its first Conference USA title game and third overall. WKU is in just its second season in Conference USA, and will be playing for its first conference title.
The division title also continues the quietly astounding turnaround head coach Todd Monken has fashioned in Hattiesburg. In Monken’s first year, coming off a winless 2012 season, the Eagles went 1-11 and followed it up with a 3-9 2014 campaign. With two games remaining in 2015, Monken has his team sitting at 9-3, easily the team’s best record since going 12-2 in Larry Fedora‘s last season in 2011.