October 11, 2013
Monken Talks Bridgford's Early Struggles
Southern Miss is dead last in turnover margin right now at -13, averaging almost three a game - the most out of any other team in college football.
Twelve of those have come from the hands of quarterback Allan Bridgford, who has not began his short-lived career in Hattiesburg with anything resembling a good start.
Bridgford has taken a lot of heat lately for his untimely and drive-killing picks that have been a major factor in the Golden Eagles' 0-5 start. His immobility has not helped the offensive line's early struggles and he seems to throw off his back foot all the time.
There have been numerous reasons why Southern Miss is in the position it is now in, sinking further and further into the depths of defeat more than ever before, and Allan Bridgford has been the butt of most of the jokes.
But lost on all of the criticism has been just how difficult the quarterback's transition has been.
Bridgford transferred to Southern Miss right before two-a-days started after finishing up his degree over the summer at the University of California-Berkley. He was then thrust into a team that did not win a game the year before without a single friendship or connection and asked to lead from the most important position on the field.
To say it's been a rough go would be an enormous understatement.
"It's tough for Allan and I haven't done as good a job with Allan," head coach Todd Monken said. "You know, a guy that comes in a week before two-a-days. He doesn't really know our guys very well. It's hard to lead that way. We knew we would end up doing that to him. Some of those things are not his fault."
Indeed, there have been countless interceptions this season that have come from a receiver letting the ball bounce off his hands or mix-ups in the timing or placement of a route. While Bridgford has shouldered most of the blame, it's hard to place it all on his massive 6'3, 220 lb. shoulders.
It is simple guidance that Bridgford has been missing this year, and Monken has placed the blame firmly on himself as opposed to throwing his player under the bus.
"I've probably done a bad job with that of making sure, 'Hey, who you eating with? Who you bonding with? Be around our team. You need more energy,'" he said. "(The players have) got to feel like you're a part of them and we talked about that this week, that you need to do that and they need to feel like you give us the best chance to win."
That's what this bye week has been all about - establishing a connection between the players and Bridgford that never seemed to come to fruition during fall camp.
His quiet, almost somber approach to the game has rubbed many the wrong way, and no doubt Monken has noticed the growing criticism of his quarterback. Still, he believes it is Bridgford who is best suited to lead the team into battle for the remaining seven games, regardless of what anyone outside of the locker room thinks.
"I could give a rat's rear end about the fans. We're gonna play the best player that we think is our guy. But the moment our players don't feel he's our guy, now we've got trouble," Monken said.
"By his skillset he does give us the best chance to win, but our players have to believe that and they have to believe that that's the case. He's done a better job of that this week and even last week he did a better job."
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