November 21, 2017 11:07:31 AM
STARKVILLE -- The extra planes made the big difference.
With a Thursday game looming after a Saturday win, the coaching staff doesn't have the time to go through the usual procedure for leaving a road game with the team; it needs to get back home as soon as possible to begin an accelerated work week. Mississippi State Director of Athletics John Cohen obliged with a separate plane for the coaching staff to help the coaches kick off Egg Bowl week.
"We enjoyed our plane ride home together. We had a good time," MSU coach Dan Mullen said. "The second you got off the plane, it became Sunday morning."
No. 16 MSU (8-3, 4-3 Southeastern Conference, No. 16 College Football Playoff) will play host to Ole Miss (5-6, 2-5) at 6:30 p.m. Thursday (ESPN) at Davis Wade Stadium. Mullen said the team and the coaches have grown comfortable dealing with a short week schedule since the game has been moved back to Thanksgiving Day.
Mullen feels the energy of the rivalry will help his players get through a stretch of three SEC games in 12 days.
"I want them to embrace it, and I don't have to worry about it," Mullen said. "It's not another game."
Shot at history for senior class
MSU's seniors will have a shot to make history Thursday.
The senior class has a record of 33-16. A 34th win would tie it with the classes of 2015 and 1942 for the most in school history.
"Even though we don't have a huge senior class, you look at what these guys have been through, the highs and lows during their career," Mullen said. "They came in early in their career, No. 1 in the country and trying to compete for a national championships, conference championships, also dealt with some adversity and going through a rougher season last year. What these seniors have gone through to put the program back where we expect it and back as a top-15 program nationally is really special.
"Each of them has a great story, and I think if you look at each of them and what they've accomplished in our football program, they've done a lot."
Harris out for Egg Bowl, Gray out for good
MSU wide receiver Donald Gray's college career is over.
Mullen said Gray had surgery on a sports hernia that will end his senior season. Gray finishes his career with 86 catches for 1,309 yards and 10 touchdowns in 34 games.
Mullen hopes linebacker Dez Harris (thigh bruise) can return for the bowl game. Mullen said it continued swelling and Harris had to spend some time in the hospital at one point.
Among players returning from injury are safety Brandon Bryant (head) and wide receiver Keith Mixon (ankle).
Mullen said there is an outside chance of wide receiver Gabe Myles (foot) returning, too.
In non-injury news, Mullen addressed running back Aeris Williams not starting for the first time this season against Arkansas. Nick Gibson started in his place. Mullen said Williams was held out of the first two series for a minor discipline issue. He said Williams will return to his usual status for the Egg Bowl.
More honors for Sweat, Fitzgerald
MSU outside linebacker Montez Sweat was named SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week on Monday, while quarterback Nick Fitzgerald was named a finalist for the C Spire Conerly Trophy. The C Spire Conerly Award is given to the best college football player in the state of Mississippi.
Sweat earned the honor for the third time this season after recording two-and-a-half sacks against Arkansas. He is the first Bulldog to hit that number in a game since Chris White did it against Florida in 2010. He has nine sacks.
Ole Miss wide receiver and Starkville native A.J. Brown also is a finalist. Brown, a sophomore, leads the Southeastern Conference and ranks seventh nationally in receiving yards per game (98.6). He also leads the SEC in touchdowns (10). Brown's 1,085 receiving yards is third all-time in a single season for an Ole Miss receiver, just 68 yards behind 2015 Biletnikoff Award finalist Laquon Treadwell's mark of 1,153 yards set in 2015.
Brown's five 100-yard receiving games this season ranks second in the single-season record books for 100-yard games, just one shy of Laquon Treadwell's 2015 mark of six. Brown is fifth on the single-season record charts in receptions (69).
A panel of sports media selects the winner after a six-day online fan vote conducted by C Spire at www.csopavoting.com. Fan voting started at 8:30 a.m. today and continues through 5 p.m. Sunday. Fans can vote daily through Facebook, Twitter or text message
Other finalists are Alcorn State running back De'Lance Turner, Belhaven quarterback Hunter McEachern, Delta State running back Chris Robinson, Jackson State linebacker Shawn Bishop, Millsaps linebacker Jacob Kendall, Mississippi College defensive back Chris Manning, Mississippi Valley State defensive back Mark Pegues, and Southern Mississippi running back Ito Smith.
Starkville Quarterback Club
The final regular season meeting for the Starkville Quarterback Club will be at 6 tonight at the Starkville Country Club. Members are encouraged to invite their spouse/significant other to the meeting, which will feature long-time MSU announcer Jim Ellis as the speaker.
Brad Peterson, MSU's director of high school relations and recruiting, will give the scouting report for Ole Miss.
The menu will be fried or baked chicken, baked potatoes, green beans, salad, bread, and dessert. Social hour will begin at 6 p.m. Dinner will be served at 6:30 p.m. The program will begin at 7 p.m.
The meeting is sponsored by Vowell's Marketplace and Shipley's Donuts.
With the Bulldogs slated to receive a bowl invitation, the Quarterback Club will have a bowl game meeting Thursday, Dec. 14.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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