When Southern Miss introduced football coach Ellis Johnson in December, he cited the Golden Eagles track record as a key reason for his arrival.
Its a place where I am convinced you can always be successful, he said.
So imagine the head-scratching that must be going on in Hattiesburg, where the Golden Eagles are off to their worst start in 36 years and are in danger of their first losing season in 19 years.
Boise State (3-1) visits winless Southern Miss (0-4) on Saturday (10:05 a.m. MDT, Root Sports Northwest).
Weve got to click as a team, senior receiver and return specialist Tracy Lampley said. Once we get that, well be a very good team. Weve still got time to turn this thing around and hopefully we can try to do it Saturday.
The Golden Eagles fall is one of the biggest surprises in college football this year.
Their string of 18 straight winning seasons ranks fourth among active streaks. The program has been to bowls in 14 of the past 15 years, including the past 10. And the Eagles won a school-record 12 games last year, took the Conference USA title, beat Nevada in the Hawaii Bowl and finished ranked No. 20.
The schedule hasnt helped. The Eagles have lost to ranked teams Nebraska and Louisville teams and one-loss Western Kentucky. The other loss was to East Carolina.
Last week, Southern Miss led Louisville 17-15 midway through the fourth quarter.
Its been a tough start, Lampley said. Weve let some good games get away from us. Weve got ourselves into a hole. Were trying to come out swinging.
Thats exactly what Boise State expects.
Coach Chris Petersens team didnt score in the second half of a 24-7 win in Hattiesburg in 2008 so the goose egg in the Golden Eagles win column looks more like an aberration to him.
I dont even kind of think of them (as winless), Petersen said. Sometimes when you get a new system, it takes a game or two to kind of get clicking a little bit.
Offensively, the struggles are easy to understand.
The Eagles still run a one-back spread, but its a different version.
And like Boise State, they lost a four-year starting quarterback Austin Davis.
Unlike Boise State, the Eagles havent identified an heir apparent. They have started three quarterbacks, partly because of injuries, and its likely theyll start third-stringer Ricky Lloyd again this week, Johnson said.
Lloyd started the Louisville game. He was 2-for-8 passing in conditions so bad that neither team could throw the ball. Junior Chris Campbell, the pure passer, started the first and third games, when he sustained a neck injury. He is not expected to play this week, the Hattiesburg American reported.
True freshman Anthony Alford, a dynamic runner, started the second game and relieved Campbell in the third game before a knee injury forced him to the sideline.
We dont know right now whos going to be the healthiest and get enough practice reps to know who the starter is, Johnson said.
Across the rest of the roster, Johnson is coaching attitude as well as skill. Last week, he had former Southern Miss star Adalius Thomas address the team about how to get out of the ditch about the losses.
Johnson hopes that message resonates, even with another loss on the record.
I saw a bunch of disappointed young men, just like every loss, but I saw a little bit more of where they knew we couldve won that ball game with just a few plays here or there, Johnson said. I think the confidence will eventually overtake the disappointment.
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398,Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat