In less than 10 days, the Southern Miss football team will kick off the 2014 season against in-state rival Mississippi State.
The Golden Eagles, who finished their 19-day fall camp Tuesday, begin their weekly routine practices today after head coach Todd Monken gave the players Wednesday off to prepare for the first day of classes.
For nearly three weeks, the team has solely focused on fall camp and preparing for the first game of the season. However, Monken acknowledged the importance of his players transitioning from just practice to including an academic workload in addition to performing on the field.
“Now it is get up, breakfast check, go to class, tutoring, study hall and practice, and it is a lot different,” Monken said. “The anxiety level of all those classes. A lot of our freshmen have been here, but different classes. Just getting used to a routine.”
Beyond the adjustment period, players are excited for the Golden Eagles season-opener against the Bulldogs. The Bulldogs, who were predicted to finish fifth in the SEC West this year, return 80 percent of its starters from last season’s bowl team. Quarterback Dak Prescott will lead the Bulldogs as the chief signal caller after sharing the duty last year with Tyler Russell.
With an improved Prescott at quarterback, eight returning starters on offense and a defense that allowed only 23 points per game, Mississippi State will look to start its path toward an SEC Championship in its season opener against Southern Miss. But Golden Eagle players are not worried about the Bulldogs’ plans or success last year, but instead they are focusing on how this game sets the tone for their season.
“This game provides the chance for the team to showcase the growth we have made and to show that we really are a different team from previous years,” said redshirt sophomore fullback Johntre Goudy. “We can all preach that we’re a different and better team, but action speaks so much louder than words.”
Darrion Goudy, a redshirted senior fullback and brother of Johntre Goudy, said he is thrilled about the game against the Bulldogs and what it does for the team. “This will be one of the steps that will help us rise back to the top,” Goudy said. “I notice excitement from a lot of fans and students and it is a game that everyone is looking forward to. We want a victory.”
Goudy also said this game allows for the younger players on the team to truly see the expectations set for them and to constantly grow and improve in their college football experience. The last time the two teams played each other was in 1990. Southern Miss leads the overall series 14-12-1, which dates back to 1935. During the 1975 and 1976 seasons, Mississippi State forfeited games against the Golden Eagles.
“A win over State will be a huge confidence booster to our team,” said redshirt senior defensive lineman Nic Bekkers. “It would give us the momentum we need to have a great season.”
While players express their thoughts and opinions about the game against the Bulldogs, students are also ready to see the football team take the field against Mississippi State. “This game will show where Southern Miss’ football program stands,” said Cedric Anderson, a sophomore business marketing major.
“Playing well against a team from the SEC will show our fans and student body how hard the football team has been working to be a successful program.”
Drako Wells, a senior English major, said the Mississippi State game puts Mississippi bragging rights on the line. “This is our school’s chance to show larger schools like MSU and Ole Miss that we are on the same level as they are,” Wells said. “As long as we play competitively, everyone will see that Southern Miss is improving and that our team is on the rise.”
The Golden Eagles will travel to Starkville, Miss., on Aug. 30 to take on Mississippi State. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. at Davis Wade Stadium.