November 9, 2013 9:42:50 AM
COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Welcome to Week 10 of the 2013 college football season. The Dispatch MSU Sports Blog will be LOOKING LIVE.....at Kyle Field as the Bulldogs (4-4, 1-3 in SEC) travel to face No. 11 Texas A&M (6-2, 4-2), 2:30 p.m., CBS.
NOTE: As always go ahead and refresh this blog post up to kickoff for the latest information on the game.
(UPDATED) 1:50 p.m. - Team spokespeople have confirmed Mississippi State senior linebacker Deontae Skinner is out of today's game with a sprained knock injury. MSU coach Dan Mullen didn't mention him Monday when he gave the injury report as the senior leads the team in tackles with 50. Skinner had five tackles in a 34-16 loss last week at No. 12 South Carolina. Skinner has 3.5 tackles for loss, one sack and a interception in the 2013 season.
- Who will play quarterback for Mississippi State?
Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott will play on Saturday against No. 11 Texas A&M, just days after his mother died of cancer.
There was some uncertainty about Prescott's availability for the game after he missed practice early in the week to be with his family. But Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen said on his weekly radio show that Prescott would play. It's unclear after the all the personal difficulties that Prescott has gone through this week how much this weekend.
Peggy Prescott, the mother of the MSU signal caller, lost her long battle with colon cancer Sunday morning. She leaves three children, including Dak, who is the youngest.
"It's a very, very difficult situation for all of us to go through," Mullen said Monday in his weekly media conference at the Seal Family Football Complex. "Fortunately, both my parents are still alive, but to see one of our young men, and someone we care so much about, go through this is very, very difficult."
Dak Prescott left the MSU program Sunday to be with his family in Haughton, La., and funeral proceedings were on Wednesday. MSU (4-4, 1-3 Southeastern Conference) will travel Friday afternoon to No. 11 Texas A&M. Prescott was reportedly back at practice Wednesday.
If Prescott is unable to play a lot of snaps, Mullen suggested that by sitting out last week at South Carolina, senior quarterback Tyler Russell is healthy following a severe ankle injury and has been taking the first team reps in practice this week in Starkville.
"I know I have to keep everybody up and we just to keep everybody motivated with their spirits," Russell said. "What Dak is going through is pretty rough and he told me to make sure I'm keeping the guys working hard while he's been gone."
- How does MSU try to contain Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel?
MSU coach Dan Mullen described trying to limit Johnny Manziel as a choice between passing, running and his improvisation. Manziel is Southeastern Conference leading passer at 318.6 yards per game and 72.5 percent of his attempts. He is also the 13th best runner in the SEC and second-best most prolific running quarterback in the league at 24 rushes of 10 yards or more. When Manziel freelances he is dangerous and averages 9.22 yards per play as the leader in total offense in the SEC.
"There is a little bit of everything," Mullen said Monday in his media conference at the Seal Family Football Complex. "His ability to run the football, which you have to defend against. His ability to throw the football, which you have to defend against and the third one, which is his ability to improvise. Improvising, he can run or throw. That is where the difficult problem comes in."
On the road to winning the 2012 Heisman Trophy, Manziel totaled 440 total yards (311 passing, 57 rushing) and two touchdowns in a 38-13 victory over the Bulldogs in Davis Wade Stadium.
"It's all about precognitive thinking with our guys on defense when facing Manziel," MSU defensive coordinator Geoff Collins said. "We have to get our guys to respond and essentially in a cerebral way get our guys to play the game out in their mind before anything on the field Saturday ever happens."
Manziel threw four touchdown passes and ran for two more scores in less than three quarters to lead No. 12 Texas A&M to a lopsided 57-7 win over UTEP last weekend. Manziel threw touchdown passes of 44, 15, 17 and 26 yards and had TD runs of 10 and 49 yards before being taken out of the game with 7:39 left in the third quarter. Manziel has accounted for 33 touchdowns on the season, 25 passing and eight rushing.
- Can Mike Evans back up his head coach's Heisman Trophy talk?
Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans, who is clearly the favorite and most easily found target for 2012 Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Johnny Manziel, leads all receivers in the conference in yards (1,147), touchdowns (12) and yards per touch (22.1 yards) this season.When MSU had the displeasure of facing Beckham Jr., and Landry, both of who are also considered high NFL Draft picks eventually as well, the duo shredded the Bulldogs for 275 total receiving yards.
Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin went so far Saturday after the Aggies (7-2, 3-2 in Southeastern Conference) dominated UTEP 57-7 to suggest Evans should have his name bantered about for the Heisman Trophy along with his rock star quarterback trying to repeat as the winner.
"I'm puzzled why Mike Evans isn't in the Heisman race," Sumlin said. "I think he's as good a player as there is in the country. He's second in the country in yards per game and everybody knows we're going to throw him the ball."
- Once again...Will Dan Mullen finally knock off a Top 15 ranked opponent?
The MSU fan base is clearly beginning to get restless with the Bulldogs inability to pull off a upset of a nationally ranked opponent especially when they see Ole Miss knocking off LSU a few weeks ago. The losses against the power programs of Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M and other Western Division foes begin to generate the questions again of if Mullen's MSU program going to come up with that signature upset or not? Coming into this weekend, Mullen is 2-22 as a head coach against schools ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 poll and 3-22 when the opponent leads after halftime. Mullen's teams at MSU are now 5-10 in the month of November and he's achieved a 5-9 record and is 2-7 in the SEC during that span of his last 14 games.
- Who will win the kicker/punter competitions in practice to earn game opportunities for MSU?
Those who thought the kicker and punter debates at MSU were done after Saturday's solid performances from sophomore punter Devon Bell and redshirt freshman Evan Sobiesk can think again.
When asked Monday why he made the change at kicker and punter, Mullen went into no detail and suggested the battle would continue to fall on practice reports between Bell, Sobiesk and senior punter Baker Swedenburg.
"I like being successful," Mullen said. "I like big, long punts with great hang time, I like field goals that go through the uprights and kickoffs that go through the back of the end zone. If that's the recipe for it, than that's what we do, but we always evaluate practice."
After seven games, MSU made the switch at placekicker Saturday as a redshirt freshman walk-on Evan Sobiesk connected on a 38-yard field goal in the second quarter of MSU's 34-16 loss at South Carolina.
It was the first made field goal for MSU since Devon Bell connected on a 22-yard attempt against LSU. Bell has struggled this season as the sophomore has connected on 5 of 11 field goals this season. Mullen said he made the change based on practice report notes between Sobiesk and Bell.
"(Sobiesk) won the field goal battle in practice," Mullen said after the 34-16 loss at South Carolina Saturday. "We chart it every week and Sobiesk was better in practice so he won the job."
The Bulldogs fifth-year coach said practice reports would still be the determining factor to who wins the job on a weekly basis going forward. Sobiesk said Tuesday he was informed he would be the field goal kicker against South Carolina on the Friday afternoon before the game.
Players to Watch
Senior quarterback Tyler Russell
Even Russell himself had to admit this week his senior season hasn't gone the way he's planned throughout all the injuries and quarterback shuffling that has taken place. However, the fifth-year senior is now fifth in career yards (4,957), third in completions (369), eighth in attempts (633) and fourth with nine 200-plus yard passing games. All of those numbers are after missing three games with a concussion, sitting most of the Kentucky contest with a left ankle injury that took him out of the South Carolina game last weekend. With Prescott having little to no practice time, Russell will be counted on in some form Saturday afternoon.
Freshman defensive tackle Chris Jones
Jones has had six quarterback hurries in the last five games and has arguably been the Bulldogs most disruptive lineman over the last month of play. The freshman from Houston, Miss., will once again be asked to not only stall the Aggies running game but keep Manziel in the pocket all afternoon.
Sophomore wide receiver Mike Evans
Evans is truly a big-play target on every passing play from the spread offense brought by Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin and perfected by the improvisation of Manziel. Evans is one of only six receivers in the Football Bowl Subdivision to already surpass the 1,000- yard plateau. He leads the nation with 15 catches of 30 or more yards.
"I don't know about the talent of other receivers but Mike is a big guy that is extremely physical," Sumlin said. "He plays hard without the football, is a talented guy with the ball in his hands. He looks like an intermediate guy that you can throw the ball to short and be physical with but he's a deep threat no doubt."
Senior left tackle Jake Matthews
The returning All-America offensive tackle, who is the son of former NFL offensive lineman Bruce Matthews, was listed No. 1 on the top 100 college seniors list compiled by NFL.com senior analyst Gil Brandt. Sports Illustrated NFL Draft analyst Chris Burke ranked Matthews the third best overall prospect in the country. Phil Steele and Sports Illustrated both had Matthews listed on its midseason All-SEC teams.
Numbers of the game
1 - The amount of games under Kevin Sumlin when Texas A&M hasn't scored first, which is a streak of 21 of 22 games. The only game when the Aggies didn't score first was the 2013 season opener against Rice - the one Manziel was suspended for the first half.
2 - Current Football Bowl Subdivision schools with 25 rushing and 25 passing touchdowns this season: Texas A&M and Ohio State.
70 - Number of plays Texas A&M has over 20 yards this season, which is second nationally and just one behind Oregon for the lead.
27.7 - In the last five games, MSU's opponents are operating at only 27.7 percent efficiency (18 of 65) on third down conversions.
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