November 21, 2012 9:33:39 AM
Matthew Stevens - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- Tyler Russell and Bo Wallace knew this was going to be a big week.
But the Mississippi State University and University of Mississippi quarterbacks had no idea they would be this popular.
Three days from the annual Egg Bowl, Russell and Wallace have been inundated with calls and text messages after their phone numbers become public knowledge. Both quarterbacks have said they've received messages and calls from opposing fans trying to intimidate them before they take the field at 6 p.m. Saturday (ESPNU) for the 109th meeting between the schools.
"That just makes it more fun having the fans get into it, on both sides of the teams," Russell said Monday. "It's a heated rivalry, everybody gets into it, and all the records go out the window for these game. It's going to come down to who makes the least amount of mistakes."
On Monday, Russell was named Southeastern Conference Offensive Player of the Week for second time this season after throwing for 274 yards and four touchdowns last week in a 45-24 victory against the University of Arkansas.
The junior quarterback, who has 21 touchdowns and four interceptions, said the calls and messages haven't forced him to changed his cell numbers, but that he was "working on it" to avoid further distractions.
"It just kind of motivates me," Russell said. "It doesn't get to me. I don't see the point in doing that. If they weren't texting me I would feel bad, but they are. I must being doing something well."
Wallace took to his Twitter account Sunday and said he'd received 58 missed calls from numbers he didn't recognize. The former East Mississippi Community College standout also said the calls would motivate him Saturday night in Oxford.
"Couple words of encouragement," Wallace said when asked about the calls Monday. "It's still coming in. It's pretty funny. I turn it off about 11:30 p.m. I haven't thought about getting a (new) number. I kind of like listening to some of them. It's funny stuff."
Wallace has infused energy and playmaking ability to offense. His play is one reason the Rebels (5-6, 2-5 SEC) are one victory away from becoming bowl eligible. Wallace is fifth in the SEC in passing (231.7 yards per game), and has 14 touchdowns and a league-high 13 interceptions.
Freeze said Monday a shoulder injury Wallace has had since last September has held him back from showing his full arsenal, but he said he likely will start Saturday.
"My arm strength and my accuracy, too, is what hinders me," Wallace said when asked about the injury. "I make those throws (to Donte Moncrief in the first quarter Saturday at LSU) 100 percent (of the time if healthy.). I don't think it's gotten any worse, but I don't think it's gotten any better."
Wallace's shoulder could be a reason coach Hugh Freeze replaced him with Barry Brunetti last week for the final drive in a 41-35 loss at LSU.
"He's definitely not at 100 percent, (and) he wasn't Saturday. You can tell on some of his throws," Freeze said. "He's proven to be very resilient. He's a tough kid. He'll get ready to go the best he can Saturday. I don't think he was any worse, but I don't think he was any better (health wise on Sunday)."
MSU (8-3, 4-3) attempted to sign Wallace after the junior college All-American helped EMCC win the national NJCAA championship. He set NJCAA single-season records for passing yards (4,604), total yards offense (4,810), and touchdowns thrown (53).
"I don't have words to express how excited I am to get out and play for this university. It's different," Wallace said. "Everybody is locked in with attention to detail and execution. Guys fought through practice and flew around."
In response to hearing Wallace likely has received text messages and phone calls by MSU fans, MSU Director of Athletics Scott Stricklin used his Twitter account to encourage MSU fans to stop contacting Ole Miss players.
"Bulldog fans ... circulating, calling and texting opposing players' cells is bad form," Stricklin tweeted via his @stricklinmsu account. "Let's be better than that. Thanks."