August 16, 2014 9:40:00 PM
By Brian Lentz
Special to The Dispatch
STARKVILLE -- Starkville head coach Jamie Mitchell is fully aware of the high expectations that have been placed on his team this season.
He reminded them of those expectations following a 24-0 preseason victory over Terry Saturday at the New Hope Jamboree played at Mississippi State's Davis Wade Stadium.
MSU will also host the Mississippi High School Activities Association championship weekend for the first time in December.
"This is where we want to be in December," said Mitchell. "It's going to be a long, hard road to get here, and our schedule does not allow for any slip-ups or off games. Our guys know who we're playing, we know that we have a target on our backs and we know that when we line up against those teams, we have to be at our best every Friday night."
Starkville ended the 2013 season with a 9-4 record, but are preseason ranked third by the Clarion-Ledger. The team returns several starters, led on offense by senior quarterback and Memphis commit Brady Davis, and a slew of offensive weapons, including Jacquez Horsley, Matt Fuller and A.J. Brown. The Yellow Jackets have a solid core returning on defense as well.
The offense stood out early in the first period, as the Jackets scored a pair of touchdowns and a field goal before the break. Davis hooked up with senior standout receiver A.J. Brown on a 27-yard touchdown reception for the first score just over two minutes into the scrimmage.
After a 32-yard field goal from Michael Godley, the Jackets ended the quarter with a one-yard touchdown run from senior Matt Fuller, giving Starkville a 17-0 lead. Davis and Brown would connect one more time on a 19-yard reception in the second half, sealing a 24-0 win for Starkville.
In all, the offense ran 38 plays for a total of 252 yards. Davis went 9-of-16 for 176 yards and two touchdown passes. The Jackets also had three receivers who finished with 50 yards or more, with that group being led by Brown, who collected three receptions for 58 yards. Raphael Leonard and Keyon Higgins also combined for four receptions and 103 total yards. Starkville's ground game also had a good performance, as Horsley and Fuller combined for 11 rushes and 58 yards.
Despite the great offensive performance from the Jackets, Davis admits that work still needs to be done before the Jackets' season opener on Friday against Noxubee County.
"I'm probably my biggest critic," Davis said. "The entire team played really well, but I know I missed some throws and there were a couple of drops. Those are just some things we have to clean up, but we will be ready to go to war on Friday night when the season starts."
The defense also put out a solid effort, holding Terry to just 20 yards of total offense over 24 plays. Although Mitchell pointed out some areas that need improvement, he praised the overall performance of that side of the ball.
"That's the strength of our football team," said Mitchell. "As the defense goes, so does the team. We feel like we have five or six guys that can make some good plays and we also some good depth. We're going to need all of them this season."
Starkville's ultimate goal is to begin and end the season in Davis Wade Stadium, which makes the target on their backs just a little bit bigger. Still, the Jackets know what they must do to stay at the top.
"We have to stay humble and hungry," said Davis. "I feel that we have the potential to be the number one team in the state when it's all said and done, but we will have to come out and prove that every Friday night."
1. MSU football team lands 28th commitment COLLEGE SPORTS
2. Humphreys hopes to add pop to MSU's lineup COLLEGE SPORTS
3. MSU women will try to apply lessons learned COLLEGE SPORTS
4. Defense delivers for Caledonia boys HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
5. Second-half surge lifts No. 18 MSU past Auburn COLLEGE SPORTS