"Usually when you've got a leak in the boat, you've got to patch that leak up. Even as balanced as Mississippi State is--and they are very balanced--I would pass."
Having played together at Carson-Newman, Torbush knows Bulldog Offensive Coordinator Sparky Woods very well. "I've got tremendous respect for Sparky," Torbush related. "He's always done a good job of being balanced. If you look everywhere he's been, it's been about 50/50 on yardage gained by pass or run. That's not to say that State is going to throw the same number of times that they run. But the yardage attained is almost identical in most situations."
Though they have struggled for most of 2001, under Head Coach Jackie Sherrill Mississippi State has historically featured a bruising rushing game. "They've got a very physical offensive line," Torbush said. "Most of those guys are back from last season. Their tight ends are very impressive. They do have a very physical running attack, but at the same time they've got good skill players at wide receiver."
At SEC Media Days, held in Birmingham prior to the start of the season, Sherrill touted his senior quarterback for all-star honors. But it's been a difficult year for the Huntsville native. "Wayne Madkin has started now for three years," Torbush said. "I'm sure he's been a little bit like our defense. He's had his confidence bruised a little bit by some very good defenses. Therefore he's struggled at times. But he's a solid quarterback with great athleticism.
"He can scramble well when he needs to. He's been in a lot of big ball games over the last three years. There is no question that Wayne Madkin and the backup quarterback (Kevin Fant) both are really good players."
But though Madkin got some recognition from the media, pre-season prognosticators were more impressed with the bulldog runners. Dantae Walker and Dicenzo Miller were seen by many as the most talented tailback tandem in the conference. "They've got very strong, physical running backs," Torbush agreed. "Miller has got excellent hands. He also holds for extra points and field goals, so that tells you he's got great hands. I think Miller is very good. He's very capable of earning all-conference honors. He's that type of guy."
Despite being the winningest quarterback in Mississippi State history, things have not gone well for Madkin in his final season. Tenth in the conference in passing yardage per game, Madkin isn't even listed among SEC leaders in terms of passing efficiency.
Last week versus Kentucky Kevin Fant came off the bench to lead State to a come-from-behind fourth-quarter win. But though he expects both QBs to play, Torbush isn't worried about preparation. "They're going to still run the same offense," he explained. "They're going to still run the same plays. They'll use the same formations. Both of them are quality players. Madkin has been in this type ball game many times. He has tremendous experience. Fant came in against Kentucky and make some good plays late.
"They've got a healthy problem. They've got two good quarterbacks, and they feel like they can win with either."
Tide coaches hope that Kindal Moorehead can return this Saturday. The defensive end missed the LSU game with a strained MCL. If he can't play, expect nose tackle Kenny King to again see action at end. There has been some talk of shuffling the playing rotation at cornerback, but following practice Thursday Tide Head Coach Dennis Franchione declined to go into any specifics.
Of course just as much as cornerback, the Tide safeties struggled in last week's game, prompting many to wonder why seniors Shontua Ray and Reggie Myles didn't see any action. "They should get back," Torbush said. "They probably should have played some last week, but they did not. With the physical running game of MSU, they should have a chance. But that depends on how well they practice. We'll evaluate and make some decisions."