HATTIESBURG, MS - "Um, they're big," said Southern Miss senior offensive lineman Wil Freeman when asked what he knew about Kentucky.
The Wildcats might have USM outsized, but the prospect of taking on an SEC opponent isn't too big a challenge for these Golden Eagles.
"Honestly, I think our kids view it as an opportunity, as a game," said USM offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson. "I don't think they make any more or less of it than that. And so I think they have the belief that if we go out and play good and execute, we can beat anybody."
"Very, very exciting to hit somebody else different in a different color jersey," said USM senior linebacker C.J. Perry.
"We're not really concerned with who it is whether that be Kentucky or some other team," Freeman said. "We're just concerned with going out there and getting a win."
It's something Southern Miss hasn't done against an SEC opponent since beating a 15th ranked Alabama team in 2000. Having coached the Wildcats' sophomore quarterback Drew Barker just a season ago before joining the Golden Eagles, Dawson hopes his prior knowledge comes in handy on Saturday.
"I have a little bit of knowledge about them and they have a little bit of knowledge about me," Dawson said. "It goes both ways. Ultimately, both teams have to go out there. I promise you on both sides there's enough question marks and so ultimately, like coach Hop says, the team that executes the best is going to win. So hopefully our question marks play better than there's."
"You know all the quarterbacks have their red shirts on," said USM defensive coordinator Tony Pecoraro. "So this is the first opportunity to get hit. So I think that's an emphasis no matter who you play."
Whatever the result Saturday night, Perry wants to make sure the nation knows what Southern Miss football is all about in 2016.
"Just the competitive nature that all of us possess over here," Perry said. "One thing that Coach Hop preaches to us every day is 11 brothers. And I think that's something that the world will be able to see on Saturday, how close we are on the field and how we play together and play as one."
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