September 15, 2012 9:52:25 AM
STARKVILLE - Mississippi State University head coach Dan Mullen is concerned his players might struggle getting back to work this week to prepare for its first road game of the 2012 season at Troy University.
Motivation after being told how wonderful on the Starkville campus is something not many coaches want to have happened to their players to distract them from the weekly preparations.
MSU (2-0, 1-0 in Southeastern Conference) will play away from Starkville in the 2012 campaign at Troy University (6 p.m., ESPN3.com) for only the first time in the history of both programs.
Troy has 13 players on its roster from Mississippi or junior college in the Magnolia state that have been told they weren't talented enough to play on a SEC roster.
"You have an SEC team coming in here for the first time in school history," defensive lineman Tony Davis told The Montgomery Advertiser.
"There's so much at stake. For this program and university, there's a lot at stake. We have to get the job done."
Veterans Memorial Stadium on the Troy University campus will play host to a SEC school for the first time since the building opened in 1950.
While Troy players are feeling the excitement of preparing to upset a power program, the Trojans (1-1) are also trying to recover from a University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
"I have to get over the funeral song before I can get into some excitement. I've never dealt with losses any differently," Troy head coach Larry Blakeney said. "I think are kids are going to see what they see and they're going to get excited about playing. There maybe a little bit of fear mixed in, but fear has always been a great motivator."
Here's what we're going to do for our pre-game blog: The Dispatch MSU Sports Blog is going to review all the material we've assembled for you this week in our print edition.
MONDAY - MSU football notebook - Russell first MSU QB to win weekly league
honor since '91 - http://www.cdispatch.com/sports/article.asp?aid=18868
MSU football feature - Johnthan Banks continues manufacturing turnovers - http://www.cdispatch.com/sports/article.asp?aid=18869
TUESDAY - MSU football feature - Justin Malone feeling comfort on MSU offensive line - http://www.cdispatch.com/sports/article.asp?aid=18884
MSU football notebook - REPORTS: MSU to play Oklahoma State in 2013 football opener - http://www.cdispatch.com/sports/article.asp?aid=18887
WEDNESDAY - MSU football notebook - Sylvester Croom documentary close to airing on ESPN - http://www.cdispatch.com/sports/article.asp?aid=18901
THURSDAY - MSU football preview - Mullen wants to keep players focused on first road trip at Troy - http://www.cdispatch.com/sports/article.asp?aid=18937
5 Keys to the Game
1. Can MSU handle what Mullen calls "the adversity of success"?
Mississippi State University head coach Dan Mullen is concerned his players might struggle getting back to work this week to prepare for its first road game of the 2012 season at Troy University.
Mullen referenced the 2010 season when a win against the University of Georgia catapulted MSU (2-0, 1-0 in Southeastern Conference) into learning how to deal with the emotional high that comes with victories on the field. After a 28-10 victory against Auburn last Saturday, MSU must deal with being a favorite in the next three games.
"We talked about that that sweet taste of victory Saturday will turn into the most sour taste in your mouth if we don't prepare properly this week," Mullen said at his weekly media conference Monday. "If you don't play your A game, if you don't perform, there's no guarantee on any team in this country. You've got to come out and perform week in
and week out. You're looking at these 18-, 19-, 20-year-old kids, how they practice is how they're going to play, and the focus they're going to have Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, you can't, there's not a team in the country that can just flick it on and say, here we are, we're just going to perform on Saturday."
2. Will MSU be able to slow down a high velocity Troy offense?
Troy's offense averaged just over 44 passing attempts per game last season, which was the seventh most in the nation. In the first two games of the 2012 season, Troy attempted just 22 passes at UAB and then 75 against ULL (48.5).
The Trojans spread-option offense likes to run no-huddle tempo and get to the line of the scrimmage with 15-20 seconds left on the play clock. This speed in between plays makes substitutions within possessions nearly impossible.
Mullen about the eye-opening disparity in the offensive statistics for Troy after the Trojans accumulated 485 yards through the air in a loss to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
"A lot of times stats can get that way," Mullen said about the statistics. "You look last week (and) they ran the ball a tone and won the game. Again, you find the different personalities in teams. I don't think we have seen exactly what their personality is yet. I
think ours is growing within our team but with theirs, the two different games that they've been in, you're going to have to see coming into this game what direction they're heading in and really the game can dictate a lot of that as well as the game progresses."
3. Will MSU get its special teams units figured out in Week 3?
Mullen said he is confident in the fundamentals and personnel of the people in his kick coverage even after the 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Auburn's Onterrio McCalebb.
"The kick return for a touchdown, honestly, the two biggest culprits was maybe I put our guys in a bad position," Mullen said. "Cam Lawrence and John Banks both didn't get off a block and stayed on a block too long. I think they assumed we would kick it out of the end zone with the strong wind and all of a sudden got caught and weren't in the right position. We will look at how we're doing it and look at the scheme. You're always evaluating it and making sure you have personnel on the field at the right time with the right guys getting reps."
MSU freshman kicker is also 0-for-3 this season on field goals while still having confidence in his extra-point attempts and depth in kickoffs when being asked to boot the football out of the end zone.
"I still have a lot of confidence in Devon Bell and I think one of things that allows me to have confidence in him is when you look at how he kicks his extra points, how he kicks his kickoffs," Mullen said. "I think it's about getting him confidence because you can see in his technique that he's a little more strain in his field goals."
4. How will MSU handle its first road test?
While nobody is confusing Troy's Memorial Stadium as one of the more hostile environments in college football, it will be interesting to see how this veteran MSU group handles playing away from Davis Wade Stadium.
It's an element to Saturday's contest that Mullen hasn't overlooked in the gameplan.
"I learned early in my career not to take those games for granted. I go back, it might sound weird, but I was at Bowling Green and we played Northern Illinois," Mullen said. "We were ranked, and it was a big, big game. I'd never seen a lot of crowd noise, I'd never seen a large crowd there before. They sold it out and handed Thunderstixs out to everybody in the crowd, and it was deafening, and we had about six false starts because we didn't practice with the crowd noise all week.
We got caught off guard, and I'll make sure that never happens to us again. No matter what stadium you're going into, you're preparing for it to be a very hostile environment."
5. Can MSU figure out Troy's offensive play calls as easy as Auburn's?
Senior defensive back Corey Broomfield and senior linebacker Cam Lawrence have said after MSU's 28-10 victory over Auburn University Saturday that they were sure what the Tigers offense was calling from the line of scrimmage before the ball was snapped.
"We do a great job of preparing and we knew what the play was before they ever ran them," Broomfield said. "That's not a joke. We knew what they were doing, where the ball was going and who was getting it before the ball was snapped."
Lawrence had a team-high 10 tackles Saturday with 1.5 tackles for a loss and a sack of Auburn quarterback Kiehl Frazier. The Bulldogs linebacker said after the game he saw in Frazier's early demeanor that their pressure had gotten to him.
"It makes our job as coaches so much easier when Cam Lawrence is signaling over his head every time they were calling a pass," MSU co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Geoff Collins said Monday.
Players to Watch
Senior cornerback Darius Slay
- When asked if he felt the need to highlight one Troy receiver with Jim Thorpe Award nominee Johnthan Banks, Mullen stressed the answer was no and because he had an equally solid defensive back on the opposite side of the field. Slay has an interception in each of the first two games and a touchdown in the season-opening victory over Jackson State University.
I think because we have a lot of confidence with Darius Slay too we aren't at the point we have to match up one corner on one guy," Mullen said. "We're going to let our guys go cover."
Senior tight end Marcus Green
- Green is just one four tight ends in the FBS with three receiving touchdowns so far this season, joining Kaneakua Friel of Brigham Young University, Joseph Fauria of the University of California at Los Angeles and John Rabe of the University of Minnesota. The Scooba, Miss., native is tied with Tennessee wide receiver Justin Hunter for most touchdown receptions by any player in the Southeastern Conference.
Green is tied for the team lead in catches (seven) and the sixth-year player leads MSU in yardage with (85) and touchdowns with three.
Junior quarterback Corey Robinson
- Corey Robinson entered Troy's home opener all but assured of leaving with the school's career passing attempts record needing just five attempts. 485 yard through the air later that night in a loss against the University of Louisiana-Lafayette was just the sixth 400-yard passing game in Troy history.
Robinson has thrown a touchdown pass in 24-of-27 career games and in seven straight games.
Junior wide receiver Eric Thomas
- Troy wide receiver Eric Thomas led the Sun Belt Conference with nine touchdown receptions as a sophomore in 2010. He finished third in the SBC with 5.6 receptions per game and 13.1 yards per catch He had at least three catches in all 12 games and has caught a pass in 13 straight games. Last season he led Troy in receiving yards in 10-of-12
games in 2011. After just one catch for four yards in the opener at the University of Alabama at Birmingham., Thomas returned with nine catches for 55 yards and a touchdown against ULL
The last time.....
- Mississippi State lost a non-conference road game was 38-7 defeat at Georgia Tech on Sept. 20, 2008. MSU head coach Dan Mullen has not lost to an non-SEC opponent away from Davis Wade Stadium since taking the job in Starkville with wins including Middle Tennessee State, University of Houston, University of Memphis and UAB.
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
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