November 10, 2009 11:05:00 AM
Danny P Smith -
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State senior linebacker Jamar Chaney has a "must-win" mentality entering the final month of the regular season.
The Bulldogs (4-5, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) will play host to Alabama at 6 p.m. Saturday, travel to the University of Arkansas on Nov. 21, and play host to the University of Mississippi on Nov. 28. They must win two of those three matchups to become bowl eligible.
MSU set up that possibility two weeks ago by defeating the University of Kentucky 31-24. MSU had an open date last week.
"We treated it as a playoff game," Chaney said of the game against Kentucky. "If you lose, you are pretty much done."
Chaney played in MSU''s 10-3 victory against Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl in 2007. He wants to help his teammates experience what it is like to play in a bowl game.
"Everyone wants to be in a bowl game," Chaney said. "We don''t want to sit there and watch everyone else play, so we need to make sure we win these last few games to make sure we''ll get one."
MSU will face one of its toughest challenges this season when Alabama, the No. 2 team in the Bowl Championship Series standings, comes to Starkville. But MSU coach Dan Mullen isn''t conceding anything. He expects another record crowd like the school-record of 57,178 that packed Davis Wade Stadium to see the Bulldogs play the University of Florida.
"We''re not playing the game to lose," Mullen said. "I know all of our fans came through to give us an electric atmosphere environment for the (Florida) game. We''re hoping for a big-time atmosphere for another big-time college football game.
"I think our fans have bought in, like our team has, to what we''re doing. They know they have an important role in our team''s success of making this a tough place to play. They see a team that''s going to go out and play with great effort for four quarters. When you do that you have an opportunity to have great things happen for you."
Chaney has enjoyed watching "a packed house at just about every home game this year," and hopes it will make it hard on the Crimson Tide to use their audibles and checks Saturday.
"They may have to go to the silent count," Chaney said. "The louder the crowd, the harder those things are to do."
Mullen knew early in his coaching stint at MSU that having running back Anthony Dixon in a spread offense didn''t mean the Bulldogs had to throw the football every play.
"We''re a running football team because that''s where we are," Mullen said.
Behind the 1,001 yards rushing by Dixon, MSU is third in the Southeastern Conference and is 12th nationally with an average of 219.2 yards rushing per game.
Alabama is fourth in the league with an average of 213 yards rushing per outing, so Mullen expects a test of wills Saturday on offense.
"Even though they did spread it out a bunch against LSU, the heart and soul of their football team is running the football and that''s what ours is too," Mullen said. "It''s going to be a battle of run offenses."
Chaney takes Dixon
Chaney said Dixon is the toughest running back he has faced, including the University of Alabama''s Mark Ingram.
Chaney said Dixon brings his best at practice and in games, which helps prepare the defense.
"If I can tackle Dixon, I can tackle Ingram," Chaney said.
Ingram leads the SEC with an average of 127.6 rushing yards per game. Dixon is second at 125.1.
Chaney likes Dixon because he brings a total package to the offense.
"You don''t go against too many guys that weigh 240 pounds and can move and turn," Chaney said. "Most people just think about his power, but he really knows how to make you miss. I''m not just saying that because he''s my teammate. People underestimate his speed, and if you do, he can go down the field for a touchdown."
Mullen likes McElroy
Mullen is most impressed that Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy has won his last 25 starts at quarterback.
McElroy went 16-0 as a senior at Southlake Carroll High School (Texas) in 2005 and is 9-0 this season.
"That''s what you look for in a quarterback," Mullen said. "(You look for) a winner. Your ability to run and ability to throw is much overrated as it compares to your ability to lead and ability to win. Those are important traits for a quarterback, and he has that."
Walters out for season
Knee problems will keep MSU sophomore linebacker Bo Walters off the field for the rest of the season.
Mullen made the announcement Monday after being asked about the injury situation.
Senior running back Christian Ducre'' was still "a little slow" after suffering a bone bruise in his knee, but Mullen expects him to be full speed for Saturday.
Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Templeton Hardy will be out for another week with an elbow injury.
Arkansas time announced
The kickoff for MSU''s game against Arkansas in Little Rock is set for 11:21 a.m. and will be televised on WCBI.
The MSU men''s basketball team will play Bethune-Cookman at 6 p.m. that day at Humphrey Coliseum.