Bad Luck Follows The Bulldogs

FAYETTEVILLE — In a matter of a week, Mississippi State lost its starting quarterback, its starting running back and its nationally televised season opener.

Talk about the Bad New Bulldogs.

Quarterback Michael Henig will be sidelined for 6-8 weeks after the sophomore broke his left collarbone late in the second quarter of last Thursday's 15-0 loss to South Carolina.

The injury came a little more than two months after Henig broke a toe in three places after he tripped while running up the stairs to play a friend in pool.

Redshirt freshman Tray Rutland has taken over as MSU's starting quarterback, and senior Omarr Conner has moved from his starting wide receiver position to backup Rutland.

Conner started the first eight games of last season at quarterback, passing for 903 yards with eight touchdowns and five interceptions before he moved to wide receiver.

"Omarr's role is ever-changing," MSU coach Sylvester Croom told The Clarion-Ledger. "He has always been unselfish. He's going to have to be very flexible for us, which is what we expect him to be. He knows it."

But MSU's bad luck hasn't gone away just yet.

Starting running back Anthony Dixon had surgery Wednesday after the freshman broke a bone near his left pinkie finger while catching a pass a day earlier in practice. It remains uncertain when Dixon will be able to return to the field.

"Right now, all I know is that he's not going to play Saturday," Croom said Wednesday. "We'll see how it goes."

And if things weren't going bad enough for the Bulldogs, they host No. 4 Auburn on Saturday.

Welcome Back

Wide receiver DJ Hall will get another chance to catch passes at Alabama, assuming he's healthy and doesn't make any more mistakes.

Hall, the team's leading receiver last season with 48 catches for 676 yards, is expected to return this week after missing the last two games because of a suspension and an injured ankle.

Hall was suspended for last year's Cotton Bowl for violating an undisclosed team policy, and the junior missed Alabama's season-opening win over Hawaii because of a suspension and the ankle injury.

But coach Mike Shula has indicated that Hall, if healthy, will be welcomed back for Saturday's game against Vanderbilt.

Whenever Hall returns, he'll line up alongside junior Keith Brown — who had six catches for 135 yards and a touchdown against Hawaii — to give the Crimson Tide an even more dangerous wide receiver core.

"Before he got hurt, DJ's really had a good training camp," Shula told the Huntsville Times. "So now we need that combination to help us on first and second down."

Rocky Top High

Tennessee's players have been talking for the last few months about wanting to make up for last season's disastrous 5-6 finish.

It might take more than Saturday's surprising 35-18 win over then-No. 9 California to put all the troubles in the past, but it certainly helped.

"We're far from getting our respect back on a national basis," defensive tackle Justin Harrell told The Tennessean. "It's just one victory."

But it was an impressive one.

The Volunteers gained 514 yards of total offense and jumped out to a 35-0 lead before Cal scored 18 straight points.

The win was impressive enough for Tennessee to move up 12 spots in the latest Associated Press poll, from No. 23 to No. 11. Cal, meanwhile, fell from No. 9 to No. 22.

"Obviously, it was exciting to get a win, but that's what it was — one good win," Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said. "We have a lot of work to do ... and this is a process that we're going through that started back in December to get back where we want to be."

The Return of the Ol' Ball Coach

Steve Spurrier is still a fan favorite at Florida, even if he now coaches at South Carolina.

Two days after beating Mississippi State in the season opener, Spurrier joined 78 of his former Florida players for a halftime ceremony honoring the 1996 national championship team.

Of course, Spurrier admits his thoughts weren't entirely on his former team. He had to worry about his current one, as well.

"My mind was a little bit with the ‘96 team and (on) trying to beat Georgia this week also. It was a nice moment," Spurrier said. "Now, we all go back to our other lives with our other teams."

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