Matt Mumme wasn’t looking to become a head coach under the circumstances by which he took over the LaGrange College football program.
Seven games into the 2013 season, Todd Mooney, the first coach in the school’s history, stepped down. Mumme, the offensive coordinator, was promoted.
“Head coaching jobs aren’t easy to get,” he said, “and you never want to take one over in the situation I did. Coach Mooney had done a great job establishing the program, and we’re just trying to get this thing going in a direction to elevate it a little more. I’ve got a great group of guys and they handled it really well. We finished the season great.”
The Panthers were 2-1 after Mumme took over. He got his first win in a 10-3 victory over Ferrum (Va.), and the Panthers ended the season at 5-5 with a 37-9 trouncing of Averett. If his name sounds familiar to college football fans, it stands to reason.
Mumme’s father Hal has coached at all levels of college football and all across the country, including Valdosta State and Kentucky. He currently is the head coach at Belhaven University in San Antonio, Texas. The elder Mumme is known as one of the originators of the “Air Raid” offense, and his son is putting it to use at LaGrange.
Under the younger Mumme’s tutelage, quarterback Graham Craig threw for 3,576 yards and 32 touchdowns last season, leading Division III in passing yards. His dad visited the Panthers’ spring practice and the players quickly pointed out how much the son favors the father on the sidelines.
“I am my father’s son,” Matt Mumme said. “I am probably a spitting image of him. The godfather came to spring practice and they said we have all the same mannerisms. I’ve been blessed – I learned a lot of football from my dad. We’ll definitely use a lot of his expertise.”
In addition to using his father’s offense — Matt played for his dad at Kentucky and coached under him at Southeastern Louisiana, New Mexico State and McMurtry — he also expects to use his style of approaching game.
He’s already let defensive coordinator Earl Chambers, a former defensive back at Georgia and assistant at Valdosta State, know that once the Panthers cross the 50-yard line, punting on fourth down likely won’t be an option.
“He said, ‘I don’t see anything wrong with that,’” Mumme recalled of his Chambers’ response. “I tell our guys, at the end of the day, it’s still a game. We’re lucky to be doing what we do. So heck yeah, we’re going to go for it on the fourth down. Why not?”
Former South Effingham star Justin McIntrye, one of several former Mustangs signed by the Panthers, will lead a LaGrange defense that yielded just 22 points over its final three games of 2013.
As an outside linebacker, McIntyre had 36 tackles, six of them for losses last season. He notched 3.5 sacks, one interception, one forced fumble and blocked a punt.
He even had one punt return for 25 yards. But the Panthers likely won’t be counting on the rising junior for his kick return skills.
The Panthers are hoping the 6-foot-1, 209-pound McIntyre, an all-USA South Conference selection last season, can anchor a defensive end spot in a new 4-3 scheme.
“He’s a great player,” Mumme said. “He’s really going to fit the new defensive scheme, too. We’re looking for big things from him for the next two years.”
McIntyre is one of two former Mustangs on the roster, including defensive back Drew Brindley. As one of two Division III programs in the state — Berry College is the other — Mumme hopes the inroads the Panthers have made will continue to expand.
“We’re really blessed, because Georgia is just such a great football state,” he said. “That’s no secret. We feel like if we can get guys on the ground, we have a shot to land some top-quality guys that can be successful in this conference.”
In their first eight seasons, the Panthers have made one NCAA Division III playoff appearance. They bring back 19 starters for 2014, including eight all-USA South Conference players, and the Panthers had the No. 1 passing offense in the nation last season.
“We’ve got a lot of guys coming back,” Mumme said. “If I can just stay out of the way and let these guys play, I think we’ll be pretty good.”