Article Comment 

MSU spring game celebrates past, present

 

Matthew Stevens

 

STARKVILLE -- Sam Cowart doesn't want to clean up Davis Wade Stadium today. 

 

But that just may be the form of punishment Cowart and White team teammates have to endure after they were on the wrong end of a return visit from a former Mississippi State University football team standout. 

 

After watching MSU's all-time leading rusher Anthony Dixon, who is a member of the NFL's San Francisco 49ers, catch a touchdown pass from walk-on quarterback Josh Hand in street clothes, Cowart may have a solid argument with MSU coach Dan Mullen. 

 

"I told Dan Mullen I didn't know Anthony Dixon still had eligibility left, and if not, he had to cheat to beat my team," said Cowart, a junior walk-on quarterback.  

 

Hand's pass to Dixon helped the Maroon team beat the White team 38-28 in the annual spring game in front of an estimated crowd of 21,000 at Davis Wade Stadium. Fans were only able to sit in the east side of the stadium due to construction.  

 

The pass from Hand to Dixon reflected how Mullen treats the game as more of celebration than a football game with long-term meaning. Still, Dixon's 65-yard touchdown pass that went in the official statistics went down as an unexpected highlight. 

 

"Anthony came in and said, 'I want to go run a play,' " Mullen said. "I looked at him, and he said, 'Well, I'll just run the ball.' Knowing him he probably would go run the football without any pads. I said, 'Put the jersey on and just sneak out on the field and we'll throw you a deep pass down there to go score a touchdown.' " 

 

The Maroon team, which featured more players from the first-string defense, made the touchdown stand up. 

 

Tyler Russell, the team's only healthy scholarship quarterback in the spring, was 13 of 24 for 179 yards and two touchdowns to former West Lowndes High School product Brandon Hill. Hill, who has been working as the second-string tight end, had those catches in his only action on the afternoon.  

 

Russell found the check-down options to his liking, as he completed several passes to the tailback and tight ends as he had in two previous scrimmages. Russell has spent the spring developing a chemistry with his receivers from 5 yards and in to allow for several yards after the catch. As Mullen has handed more of the play-calling responsibilities more to Russell, who will be a fifth-year senior, Russell said he has matured at the position.  

 

"I've just learned what taking what the defense gives you means," Russell said. "I know I don't have to force things down the field. When I get it down to Josh Robinson or Brandon Holloway, they're going to get 5 or 6 yards. Isn't that the idea?" 

 

With senior tailback LaDarius Perkins held out for precautionary health reasons, redshirt freshman Brandon Holloway, a converted running back, had 12 carries for 128 yards and two touchdowns.  

 

It is unknown if Holloway will remain at tailback in the fall, but his 4.3-second speed in the 40-yard dash before he arrived on campus could make him a weapon in multiple formations and in several positions. 

 

"My goal this offseason is to make sure I know both positions," Holloway said. "I don't want this coaching staff having any reservations about putting me anywhere on the football field. Tyler (Russell) and I are tight, so we'll be working on our own on so many things this summer." 

 

Kaleb Eulls showed progress in his move to defensive tackle. The Yazoo City native had the only sack in the first quarter while working against the first-string interior offensive line. The 290-pound defensive lineman no longer will flip between end and tackle and will play inside in a system defensive coordinator Geoff Collins hopes will create havoc and allow Eulls to get up the field. 

 

"He just looks comfortable because he's in his spot and he knows he is not moving," Collins said. "The game has slowed down for him now that he's in there." 

 

Jay Hughes, who will battle for one of the starting safeties spots in the fall, intercepted Cowart and an impressive hit on a reverse running play. Hughes, a junior whose father, Tony, is his position coach, will be looked to to provide leadership for younger members of the secondary on the outside who will try to replace Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay.  

 

"He's such an intelligent kid, and he takes things we do very personally," Collins said. "He takes pride in his craft. Whenever I was looking up today I saw No. 30 making a play, so that was always positive." 

 

MSU players, coaches, and fans will have 132 days before the season opener against Oklahoma State University in the Texas Football Classic at Reliant Stadium in Houston. 

 

"It's one thing to drop a pass or miss a tackle or have a missed assignment on the practice field," Mullen said. "It's another on game day in front of the crowd, so I think that's a big advantage for our guys." 

 

 

 

After watching MSU's all-time leading rusher Anthony Dixon, who is a member of the NFL's San Francisco 49ers, catch a touchdown pass from walk-on quarterback Josh Hand in street clothes, Cowart may have a solid argument with MSU coach Dan Mullen. 

 

"I told Dan Mullen I didn't know Anthony Dixon still had eligibility left, and if not, he had to cheat to beat my team," said Cowart, a junior walk-on quarterback.  

 

Hand's pass to Dixon helped the Maroon team beat the White team 38-28 in the annual spring game in front of an estimated crowd of 21,000 at Davis Wade Stadium. Fans were only able to sit in the east side of the stadium due to construction.  

 

The pass from Hand to Dixon reflected how Mullen treats the game as more of celebration than a football game with long-term meaning. Still, Dixon's 65-yard touchdown pass that went in the official statistics went down as an unexpected highlight. 

 

"Anthony came in and said, 'I want to go run a play,' " Mullen said. "I looked at him, and he said, 'Well, I'll just run the ball.' Knowing him he probably would go run the football without any pads. I said, 'Put the jersey on and just sneak out on the field and we'll throw you a deep pass down there to go score a touchdown.' " 

 

The Maroon team, which featured more players from the first-string defense, made the touchdown stand up. 

 

Tyler Russell, the team's only healthy scholarship quarterback in the spring, was 13 of 24 for 179 yards and two touchdowns to former West Lowndes High School product Brandon Hill. Hill, who has been working as the second-string tight end, had those catches in his only action on the afternoon.  

 

Russell found the check-down options to his liking, as he completed several passes to the tailback and tight ends as he had in two previous scrimmages. Russell has spent the spring developing a chemistry with his receivers from 5 yards and in to allow for several yards after the catch. As Mullen has handed more of the play-calling responsibilities more to Russell, who will be a fifth-year senior, Russell said he has matured at the position.  

 

"I've just learned what taking what the defense gives you means," Russell said. "I know I don't have to force things down the field. When I get it down to Josh Robinson or Brandon Holloway, they're going to get 5 or 6 yards. Isn't that the idea?" 

 

With senior tailback LaDarius Perkins held out for precautionary health reasons, redshirt freshman Brandon Holloway, a converted running back, had 12 carries for 128 yards and two touchdowns.  

 

It is unknown if Holloway will remain at tailback in the fall, but his 4.3-second speed in the 40-yard dash before he arrived on campus could make him a weapon in multiple formations and in several positions. 

 

"My goal this offseason is to make sure I know both positions," Holloway said. "I don't want this coaching staff having any reservations about putting me anywhere on the football field. Tyler (Russell) and I are tight, so we'll be working on our own on so many things this summer." 

 

Kaleb Eulls showed progress in his move to defensive tackle. The Yazoo City native had the only sack in the first quarter while working against the first-string interior offensive line. The 290-pound defensive lineman no longer will flip between end and tackle and will play inside in a system defensive coordinator Geoff Collins hopes will create havoc and allow Eulls to get up the field. 

 

"He just looks comfortable because he's in his spot and he knows he is not moving," Collins said. "The game has slowed down for him now that he's in there." 

 

Jay Hughes, who will battle for one of the starting safeties spots in the fall, intercepted Cowart and an impressive hit on a reverse running play. Hughes, a junior whose father, Tony, is his position coach, will be looked to to provide leadership for younger members of the secondary on the outside who will try to replace Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay.  

 

"He's such an intelligent kid, and he takes things we do very personally," Collins said. "He takes pride in his craft. Whenever I was looking up today I saw No. 30 making a play, so that was always positive." 

 

MSU players, coaches, and fans will have 132 days before the season opener against Oklahoma State University in the Texas Football Classic at Reliant Stadium in Houston. 

 

"It's one thing to drop a pass or miss a tackle or have a missed assignment on the practice field," Mullen said. "It's another on game day in front of the crowd, so I think that's a big advantage for our guys." 

 

 

 

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