Great Respect For Southern Miss

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It may be a bit of a surprise that the defending Conference USA Champions started the season 0-5, but that doesn't give UCF head coach George O'Leary any reason to take the Southern Miss Golden Eagles lightly in this weekend's contest.

The Knights' head coach said he is focusing the same amount of energy on this game as he does any other because every game is important.

"I have a great respect for Southern Miss and how they play the game," O'Leary said. "I think they're a contact football team and I think we've always had a great rivalry and respect for each other from that stand point. I anticipate a whale of a ball game Saturday night."

The Knights have had many close and exciting contests against the Golden Eagles and O'Leary expects to see much of the same when the lights come on in Bright House Networks Stadium on Saturday night. Last year's contest came down to the wire. The Knights went for the win on a 2-point conversion down by one, 30-29, and unfortunately came up short.

That memory is still etched in the Knights' minds. UCF would like nothing more than to earn its second Conference USA victory to close out a four game home stand.

"It's a team that you throw records out the window," O'Leary said. "What I see on film is they do a lot of things that can cause defensive problems or can cause your offense problems. I think they're well coached."

O'Leary is familiar with the new look Golden Eagles Coaching staff led by first year head coach Ellis Johnson. The two coached against each other more than 15 years ago when O'Leary was the head coach at Georgia Tech and Johnson was the defensive coordinator at Clemson.

"I think Ellis Johnson has done a good job with the squad he has," O'Leary said. "He has some young quarterbacks and he's trying to find the right mix. A lot of the names I see and the players I see on the field are a lot of the same ones from last year."

This will be the Knights' final battle with the Golden Eagles as a member of Conference USA. The last time UCF defeated Southern Miss was back in 2007, which was the first time the Knights won a Conference USA Championship. It was a 34-17 victory in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Then senior running back Kevin Smith ran for 175 yards and two touchdowns in the historic victory.

"I think they have the same respect for us as far as contact, speed and a tough line of scrimmage game," O'Leary said. "It's a team we've played good football [against]."

 

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