August 23, 2013 11:05:11 AM
Matthew Stevens - firstname.lastname@example.org
STARKVILLE - Mississippi State University coach Dan Mullen has treated this week of practice like they're getting ready for its opening game this weekend - a mock game, of course.
This Saturday morning in front of empty stands at Davis Wade Stadium, the entire MSU team will go through its entire routine that comes with a college football game. From being in full uniform, to running out of the tunnel and doing the Dawg Pound Rock on the sidelines, Mullen's objective is to provide a dress rehearsal for the younger players a week before they take the field in Houston against No. 13 Oklahoma State University.
"If we don't run out of the tunnel with enough juice, then we run out of the tunnel again," Mullen said. "It's tricky because this is the massive checklist of a coach where you're asking yourself 'what are we not doing?'."
Mullen took the entire team inside the Palmeiro Center Thursday to work on situational drills in the 50-yard field of practice room in the facility. With the heat index climbing over 100 degrees Thursday afternoon, MSU took the opportunity to practice with the audio speakers at full volume to simulate game-like atmospheres in what is anticipated to be a split crowd at Reliant Stadium for the Texas Kickoff Classic.
"We're getting a lot of the gameplan actually wrapped up this weekend so all we have to do is reinforce it with some good on good [first team units] here and there next week as we approach the game," Mullen said.
Oklahoma State, who comes into the game next weekend as the coaches' prediction to win the Big 12 Conference, had its coaching staff use words such as "uncomfortable" and "rowdy" to describe what the atmosphere they're walking into. Instead of treating this like a national television opportunity, the 13th-ranked Cowboys are treating this like a simple road game.
"Anytime you're traveling on the road to play somewhere else, it's going to be a little uncomfortable compared to playing at home," Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer. "The neutral field is rowdy, but it's not our field. That's the way we look at it. We have guys making the trip who haven't played yet and haven't traveled, so they don't know how to approach a game yet. Until they get hit in the mouth on that first snap, you just don't know exactly how they're going to react."
Oklahoma State to play both quarterbacks in season opener vs. MSU
Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy may never name a starting quarterback for the Texas Kickoff Classic against MSU next week.
Gundy said Thursday the Cowboys would begin the season rotating signal callers Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh in a two-quarterback system.
"I don't like two-quarterback systems if we have one that's better than the other or one that's more experienced," Gundy said. "But now we have two quarterbacks that have relatively the same amount of experience. So we're obligated to give both of them the opportunity to play in the game.
"We feel like each can provide something to the team that will help us be successful."
It's clear that Mike Gundy feels no need to pick between Chelf and Walsh, each of whom have previously won Big 12 Conference games in their career already in Stillwater, Okla.,
"They're both good now but they do give you a different look between them," MSU defensive coordinator Geoff Collins said.
Walsh won three of four games as Oklahoma State's quarterback last year, filling in after Wes Lunt suffered an injury early last season. Lunt decided to transfer this summer to the University of Illinois after falling out of the quarterback battle at OSU. When Walsh got hurt in 2012, and Lunt was injured again, Chelf came in and propelled the Cowboys to easy wins over West Virginia University, Texas Tech University and Purdue University in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
"It's the same thing I've said for the last five months," Gundy said. "Both guys are doing a good job. We're glad we have them. They'll both get a chance to play."
MSU changing its autograph policy for Saturday's Fan Day
With the news of Johnny Manziel's autograph becoming the hot topic of college football this month, MSU has decided to restrict autographs at its annual fan day Saturday to just the team poster being distributed by university officials on that day.
"Unfortunately with all the stuff going on NCAA wise, we're hand out posters and we're only going to sign those so no other paraphilia will be signed due to the world we're in now," Mullen said. "In some way it's a shame but people I guess, take advantage of the rule."
Posters and schedule cards for football, soccer, and volleyball will be available to fans. Other attractions include photo opportunities with Bully and Champ in addition to a free kids' zone with an inflatable bounce house, giant slide, and face-painting. Fans are asked to enter through the southeast doors of the Palmeiro Center.