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Pre-game at Davis Wade Stadium - A morning Snow Bowl reunion in Starkville as Aggies make first trip to MSU



Matt Stevens


STARKVILLE - Good morning from Davis Wade Stadium. The Dispatch MSU Sports Blog is LOOKING LIVE.....at the stadium in Starkville, for a prime matchup as the No. 17 Bulldogs host No. 16 Texas A&M University. 


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. 




NOTE: Be sure to bookmark this page as we'll continue to update this post throughout the day until kickoff as news continues to flow out about pre-game news for either team tonight. However, I'm told this afternoon by MSU officials that significant roster moves are not expected.  




MONDAY - MSU football feature - Tyler Russell overcomes pounding in MSU's loss to Alabama http://www.cdispatch.com/sports/article.asp?aid=19924#ixzz2BAUxC9nG  




MSU football feature - MSU football notebook: Dan Mullen vows changes on special teams http://www.cdispatch.com/sports/article.asp?aid=19926 




TUESDAY - MSU football feature - MSU freshman Brandon Holloway doing best Johnny Manziel impersonation http://www.cdispatch.com/sports/article.asp?aid=19965 




WEDNESDAY - MSU football notebook - Mullen: Texas A&M defense 'underrated' http://www.cdispatch.com/sports/article.asp?aid=19974 




THURSDAY - MSU football feature - We look into the friendly rivalry of MSU defensive coordinator Chris Wilson and Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin http://www.cdispatch.com/sports/article.asp?aid=19977 




1. Can Mississippi State University manage to control Texas A&M 


University quarterback Johnny Manziel? 


No. 17 MSU (7-1, 3-1 in SEC play) may revert Saturday to the game plan 


for the 2011 Gator Bowl matchup with the University of Michigan and 


their athletic quarterback Denard Robinson. 


The plan at the bowl game in Jacksonville, which MSU won 52-14, was to 


keep the Wolverines quarterback around the pocket and not let Robinson 


scramble to create chaos in the Bulldogs backfield. The result was 313 


total yards by Robinson (254 passing, 59 rushing) but two turnovers 


and Michigan being 2-for-10 on third downs with its then-freshman 


signal caller. 


"He's a lot like (former MSU quarterback) Dylan Favre and Denard 


Robinson because on a play where a quarterback may throw it away, 


(Manziel) may try to force something that's not there because of his 


athletic ability," MSU senior safety Corey Broomfield said. 


Last week Manziel, who also leads the SEC in rushing, ran for three 


touchdowns and passed for two more in a little more than a half of 


play as the Aggies beat a struggling Auburn University team 63-21 






2. How does MSU manage to get over an emotionally crippling loss at 


No. 1 University of Alabama? 


The gauge to the resiliency of this Bulldogs squad will be tested this 


week. Immediately after the 38-7 loss to No.1 Alabama, we heard the 


MSU team captains take responsibility for the turnaround in practice 


the next week. 


"This is on us to make sure the rest of the team stays focus and 


allows us to not slack off as we prepare for the rest of the season," 


MSU senior linebacker Cam Lawrence said. 


In his weekly teleconference with local media, MSU head coach Dan 


Mullen didn't hesitate to call this weekend's game against No. 16 


Texas A&M University (6-2, 3-2 in Southeastern Conference) as "the 


biggest game for us of the year". 


"There are dominant teams in this conference, but there's a lot of 


them, so you know that during the course of your schedule you're going 


to have to play a stretch run at some point, and week in and week out 


you're going to have to play great teams back-to-back-to-back-to-back 


even at times during the course of the year," Mullen said Sunday in 


his weekly teleconference. 




3. Can MSU manage to find a way to block the SEC's leader in sacks? 


The Aggies are led by a junior defensive end that is considered one of 


the top pass rushing options possibly available for the 2013 National 


Football League Draft. In the risk-reward system A&M operates on 


defense, Damontre Moore has accumulated 18 tackles for loss and 10.5 


sacks this season - which leads the SEC in both categories. 


"People say (there's) an adjustment to the league," Mullen said. 


"That's what this league's known for is having that athleticism on the 


defensive side of the ball. They fit right in that mold of being an 


extremely athletic and extremely fast defense. It's probably the most 


underrated defense in the league." 




4. Does MSU protect the football better and cause some turnovers on defense? 


MSU came into the game Saturday not only undefeated but leading the 


nation in turnover margin at plus-16 through the first seven games of 


the 2012 season. Alabama ended the night plus-3 in that statistical 


category and therefore took home a 31-point victory. MSU can't hope to 


find victory Saturday afternoon if they lose the turnover battle. 


"The little things made a huge difference and the little things to me 


come down to attention to detail," Mullen said after the loss. "In 


these games, you have to have complete focus and execute at a high 


level for 60 minutes. We obviously didn't do that." 






5. Is MSU ready to take next step and win a game against a top tier SEC school? 


Yes, this was the same last question as last week at Alabama. Why? 


Well, the facts haven't changed much MSU is a six-point underdog. 


Mullen has beaten one ranked teams in his last 11 tries while in 


Starkville and that was a 10-7 victory over a Florida team that was 


overrated and underperformed throughout the year. The last time MSU 


defeated a ranked opponent in Starkville was the 2009 Egg Bowl rivalry 


game against the University of Mississippi. 


"One thing we've always stressed, to put yourself in a position to win 


championships you have to win all your home games," Mullen said. 




Players to Watch 








Junior RB LaDarius Perkins 


Perkins came into Bryant-Denny Stadium last week, the SEC's leading 


rusher but after accumulating just 38 yards on 15 carries Saturday, 


A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel took that title for him. Perkins became 


just another tailback that was shut down by the Alabama 


defensive front under defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.This can't 


happen against A&M if MSU hopes to control the clock and win the 


crucial time of possession battle for its defense trying to exert 


energy chasing Manziel all over the field. When MSU doesn't rush for 


over 100 yards, Dan Mullen is 0-6, while the Bulldogs have lost 


12-straight games. 




Redshirt freshman LB Benardrick McKinney 


McKinney, who is tied for the team lead in tackles with 59, is one of 


several MSU linebackers that will have the responsibility throughout 


the afternoon of spying Johnny Manziel in case he leaves the pocket or 


dares to cross the line of scrimmage. The fellow linebackers like Cam 


Lawrence, Deonte Skinner and Matthew Wells will have to keep the 


Aggies freshman quarterback in front of them to have any chance to 


avoid big plays. 






Texas A&M 




Freshman QB Johnny Manziel 


'Johnny Football' invades Starkville this weekend. The idea for the 


MSU defense will be to force Manziel into mistakes that have led the 


youthful A&M offense to be 12th in the SEC in turnover margin by 


averaging nearly two giveaways a contest. 


"The week before (against Louisiana State University), we had four 


turnovers and lost and only scored 19 points," A&M offensive 


coordinator Kliff Kingsbury said. "It's still week-to-week and it's a 


growing process. We haven't come close to what I think we can become 


with this group. It's still a bunch of young guys out there playing, 


so if we just keep getting better and protect the football." 






Junior DE Damontre Moore 


Moore is fourth nationally with 10.5 sacks and also leads the SEC in 


knockdowns and quarterback hurries. Moore ranks third in the Football 


Bowl Subdivision with 1.31 sacks per game (101/2 total) and second in 


tackles for loss with 2.25 a game (18 total). 


Moore's presence was felt in none other than the one game this year he 


was suspended for, at Louisiana Tech University, as the Bulldogs put 


up 57 points and 450 yards in the air. 


"When Coach Sumlin first got here, he was telling us how much time we 


have left and I've only got two years left," Moore said. "I slacked 


off enough as it is... I was just being immature and didn't have my 


priorities straight." 






Nov. 28, 2009 




The last time MSU has defeated a ranked team in Davis Wade Stadium. It 


was the first Egg Bowl win for MSU head coach Dan Mullen as the 


25th-ranked Rebels lost a 13-10 halftime lead thanks to four 






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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