It's been a little more than a year since he accepted the Georgia Southern football coaching job. It would have been easy to dive into recruiting, but he temporarily remained with Georgia Tech's staff and showed his loyalty to a group preparing for an Orange Bowl clash with Iowa.
Now Monken is preparing for a Football Championship Subdivision semifinal matchup on Saturday against Delaware after the Eagles disposed of Wofford 23-20 in the quarterfinals last weekend.
Monken is one of the few coaches, if not the only coach in the country, who knows the excitement of a BCS bowl and the FCS playoff countdown in consecutive years.
"Believe me, I was thrilled to be part of Georgia Tech's team," Monken said. "Competing in the Orange Bowl was something very special. But to be a head coach, it's different. You're in a leadership role. There's a sense of ownership."
It hasn't been easy, but Monken has Georgia Southern (10-4) in a special place unforeseen to most only 11/2 months ago. The Eagles turned around a 4-4 season by winning six games in a row.
To prove its late-season improvement, last weekend Georgia Southern avenged a 33-31 loss to Wofford on Oct. 9 in Statesboro.
Monken's expertise is the triple-option offense, which he learned during a 13-year apprenticeship as a slotbacks coach under Paul Johnson.
Part of that time came in Statesboro. Monken helped Johnson build a dynasty with the Eagles, who won two national championships and played for another between 1997 and 2001.
The option attack streaked 69 yards on its first nine plays Saturday to take a 7-0 lead against Wofford, but it managed only 177 yards and didn't score another touchdown the rest of the way.
Unlike Georgia Southern squads from yesteryear, this team doesn't need a lot of offense to win a game.
Georgia Southern added a defensive touchdown, set up Adrian Mora's 33-yard field goal after a 19-yard punt return by Darreion Robinson and executed a two-minute drill to perfection, traveling 56 yards in eight plays for another Mora field goal.
A 58-yard kickoff return by Laron Scott positioned Mora for another field goal.
That was the end of the offense. But the defense made it work.
"Our defense played great," Monken said. "It has all year."
Wofford was held to field goals after drives stalled at the Georgia Southern 10- and 3-yard lines. Midway through the fourth quarter, linebacker Josh Rowe stuffed quarterback Mitch Allen at the Eagles' 3-yard line -- the only fourth-down play Wofford failed to convert Saturday.
"Nothing has been real easy for us all year long, but we've been able to battle through and put some games together here at the end of the season," Monken said.