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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 

 

Saturday. 

 

 

 

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 

 

 

 

MSU 

 

 

 

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 

 

turnovers. 

 

 

 

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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