November 13, 2009 9:14:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State tailback Anthony Dixon might want to consider wearing extra padding Saturday.
It''s not because he will face the University of Alabama defense, but it''s because of teammate Patrick Hanrahan.
Dixon could find running against the No. 3 Crimson Tide to be tough at 6 p.m. Saturday (ESPN) when the teams meet in a Southeastern Conference Western Division game. He also better be ready to face a pumped up Hanrahan during the game.
After he ran for a school-record 252 yards in a 31-24 victory against Kentucky, Dixon was on the receiving end of a big bear hug from Hanrahan, a junior fullback.
Hanrahan didn''t intend to hurt Dixon, but he got emotional in the joy of the moment. He didn''t care if he was on the receiving end of some of that pain, either.
"I was so happy that it didn''t matter if he had broken my back," Hanrahan said. "It felt so good to win so the first thing that came to my mind was to pick him up."
It''s another important game for MSU (4-5, 2-3 SEC) as it strives to become bowl eligible, while Alabama (9-0, 6-0) will look to keep national title hopes intact.
For Hanrahan, the game is personal. Hanrahan, who is from Springville, Ala., and is a transfer from the University of Alabama, a win Saturday would be pretty important.
"It''s going to be special with a lot of feelings there," Hanrahan said.
Dixon and Hanrahan have developed a bond in their time in the backfield. Hanrahan said he''s "good friends" with Dixon on and off the field, while Dixon credits his fullback for helping to open running lanes.
"That''s my boy," Dixon said. "We sit in the running back room right beside each other and we spend time with each other off the field."
Hanrahan has primarily been used on special teams, but MSU coach Dan Mullen is giving him more and more responsibilities on offense. Mullen said Hanrahan deserves it because of his effort.
Even though he''s only had one carry for a loss of 1 yard, Hanrahan has been instrumental in blocking for the Bulldogs and Dixon.
Hanrahan said there are plays in the offense designed to get him the football.
"We have some flat (passing) routes, bellies, and other certain handoffs," Hanrahan sad. "I''m just playing my role out and waiting for my time."
Hanrahan has been with four coaches in his college career. After starting out at Alabama with coaches Mike Shula in 2006 and Nick Saban in 2007, Hanrahan decided to transfer to MSU when it appeared Saban was going away from having a fullback play a key role in his offense.
Hanrahan was anxious to join the Bulldogs because he saw a chance to earn playing time from former MSU coach Sylvester Croom, who offered him a scholarship out of high school.
"I knew coach Croom ran an offense basically out of the I-formation and that''s what I wanted to be a part of," Hanrahan said.
Hanrahan thanks Mullen for the opportunity to remain a part of the team and couldn''t be happier being at MSU.
"I love it here, and it has been everything I''ve expected," Hanrahan said. "When I first came here, I had worries of whether I would like it, but I have learned to love the people and the community. My teammates and coaches are wonderful."
Hanrahan enjoys being a part of a rushing attack that ranks 12th nationally (219.2 yards per game).
Mullen knows keeping up that average will be difficult against the Crimson Tide, who allow only 68 rushing yards per game.
"They have an ability to play man-to-man, so they can put an extra guy in the box," Mullen said. "They have tremendous size not just on the defensive line but also at linebackers. They clog up gaps with their size and they always have an extra guy there to make a tackle.
"If there''s a guy there you can''t block, it''s hard to run the football."
Hanrahan said the key for the Bulldogs will be to eliminate turnovers and to concentrate on fundamentals.
"It''s all up to us and how we execute," Hanrahan said. "It''s not what they do, but what we do."