"The Hay Is In The Barn" For SEC Opener

Head coach Tommy Tuberville previews the Mississippi State Bulldogs and gives an update on the injured Tigers.

Auburn, Ala.--On Thursday morning the Auburn football team finished its final preparations for the SEC opener against what Tommy Tuberville said is an improved Mississippi State squad. The Bulldogs are coming into Jordan-Hare Stadium following a 38-17 victory at Tulane.

"They've gotten a lot better," Tuberville noted. "They're more established on what they do on both sides of the ball. They always play hard. They've struggled with depth the last few years and they've got more depth. They got their quarterback (Michael Henig) hurt last year in the first game. He had some health problems, but he's healthy and obviously they're looking forward to getting back into the SEC after a setback the first game. They're a much-improved team from the last couple of years."

With Henig's collar bone injury last season, the Bulldogs were forced into playing freshman Tray Rutland against the Tigers and lost 34-0 in Starkville.

Another freshman forced into early action for Sylvester Croom last season was tailback Anthony Dixon, who will be counted on to carry the load for the State offense on the ground on Saturday.

"We could tell that their running back was going to be a good player last year as just a freshman," Tuberville said of Dixon. "He had a good game. All of their offensive linemen are back basically from last year. They had a year kind of like we're having this year where they had to break a lot of new guys in."

Dixon ran for 131 yards on 27 carries with a pair of scores against the Green Wave

Defensively, the Bulldogs are led by end Titus Brown, a Tuscaloosa native and one of 15 players on the squad from the state of Alabama.

"(Brown) is a really good player," Tuberville noted. "The whole defense stands out as far as how they play. They've always played hard and they've got a good scheme. They've always been solid in the kicking game and they've got good speed with #3, (Derek) Pegues. He's their skill guy and he can really play."

Pegues is at safety in 2007 after playing cornerback in recent years. He is also the primary kick and punt returner.

Mississippi State lost 45-0 to LSU to start the season, but recovered with a solid win last Saturday. Meanwhile, Auburn won its opener but fell in overtime to South Florida. Tuberville said after Thursday's practice that the mindset has been good for his team following the heartbreaking defeat.

"Luckily with that set back we've got SEC this week," he explained. "Everybody always looks forward to playing in SEC games. It's a little different playing at 11:30. I think that'll probably help us in terms of changing everything up. The attitude is good.

"The hay is the barn," Tuberville added. "It looks like we may have a little wet weather come Saturday. We worked with a little bit of a wet ball out here today. We need to obviously play better and more consistent with more intensity in a lot of areas."

Kickoff for Saturday's game is set for 11:30 a.m. and it will be televised on Lincoln Financial Sports, where the Tigers have won nine of their last 10 contests. Auburn has also won six straight over the Bulldogs and are 8-0 in SEC home openers under Tuberville.

Tuberville added that Tray Blackmon and Aairon Savage both practiced. Their status for the game is still questionable. Merrill Johnson is not expected to play and whether Wes Byrum is able to kick off will be a game-time decision.

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