PREVIEW: Tigers hosts State Saturday

Head coach Sylvester Croom and the Mississippi State Bulldogs broke into the win column last weekend with a 16-10 overtime victory over UAB and will look to continue their success when they come to Baton Rouge this weekend to take on LSU.

LSU also enters the game coming off a victory, disposing of the Tulane Green Wave 49-7. The Tiger defense has not given up more than seven points yet this season.


The Bulldogs, who are 1-3 on the year with losses to South Carolina, Auburn and Tulane, will have their hands full against the Tigers, who have won the last six meetings between the two teams, including a 37-7 dominating performance in Starkville last season.

Overall, LSU leads the series 63-33-3.


Mississippi State has struggled to find a leader at quarterback through the early part of the season, with three different players starting in the first four games.


Likely to be the starting signal caller against LSU is Omarr Conner, who started the first eight games of the 2005 season for the Bulldogs before losing the job to now sophomore Michael Henig.


Henig got the start against South Carolina to open the season but was sidelined after throwing just eight passes.


With Henig gone, MSU looked to redshirt freshman Tray Rutland, who finished out the South Carolina game and started against Auburn and Tulane, completing 20 of 46 passes for 151 yards while giving up three interceptions.


Conner, who started in the first three games as a wide receiver, took over the quarterback role against UAB, where he went 14-of-23 for 115 yards. On the season, he has thrown for 356 yards and one interception.


The Bulldogs have yet to score a touchdown through the air.


On the other end of the passing attack, wide receiver Lance Long has led Mississippi State in receptions with 12 catches for a total of 84 yards. Tony Burks is the team leader in receiving yards with 149, but he did not play against UAB.


Freshman running back Arnil Stallworth led the team in receiving last week with four catches for 30 yards.


MSU's running game has been anchored this season by true freshman Anthony Dixon. Though he has not started in any game, Dixon has rushed 57 times for 234 yards and two touchdowns.  Conner has been the second-most productive rusher with 116 yards and two scores, while Stallworth, who has earned the last two starts at running back, has contributed 90 yards and one touchdown on 21 attempts.


The Bulldog offensive line returns three starters from last season, though two of them are playing at new positions. During the spring, senior Brian Anderson, who has started in 22 straight games, moved from left tackle to right guard, while junior Royce Blackledge made the switch from right guard to center.


Sophomore left guard Anthony Strauder returns to round out the returnees to the line, though he did not play last week against UAB.


New to the line are freshmen tackles Craig Jenkins (redshirt) and true freshman JD Hamilton.


Overall, Mississippi State has thrown for 132.7 yards and rushed for 105.5 yards per game this season.


On the other side of the ball, the Bulldogs bring back nine starters from last year's squad, including tackles Andrew Powell and Deljuan Robinson and end Michael Heard on the front line. Titus Brown has been the main performer at the other end position thus far.

Robinson leads the line in tackles with 21, while Heard has tallied a team-best three sacks.


The returning linemen combined for 6.5 sacks in 2005.


Perhaps the most experience on the Mississippi State squad can be found at linebacker, where the Bulldogs return starters at all three positions from last year.


Starting in the linebacking corps are senior Quinton Culberson and sophomores Jamar Chaney and Anthony Littlejohn. Junior Gabe O'Neal has also been a regular contributor at linebacker.


Through the early part of the season, Culberson has led the team with 36 tackles, including one sack, and has recorded one interception, while Chaney is second with 24 tackles and one forced fumble.


Culberson was also the team leader in tackles last season, finishing the year with 78 tackles.


The MSU secondary features experience in senior free safety Jeramie Johnson and senior cornerback David Heard, both of whom started last season.


Filling the gaps at the other two positions have been sophomores Keith Fitzhugh at strong safety and Derek Pegues at the other corner. Johnson has recorded 22 tackles on the year, while Fitzhugh has tallied 21 and Heard 17. Last season, Johnson tallied 64 tackles, the second-best mark on the team, while he led the way in interceptions with four on the season.


As a team, the Bulldogs have given up 221 yards per game through the air and seven total passing touchdowns, as well as 103.7 yards per game and four touchdowns on the ground. They have been outscored 91-45.


On special teams, sophomore place-kicker Adam Carlson is 1-3 on the year and is 4-4 on extra-point attempts.


Sophomore Blake McAdams has filled the role of punter for the second year. Through four games, McAdams has punted 25 times with an average of 39.3 yards per punt.

Derek Pegues has handled kickoff and punt returns for the Bulldogs, averaging 36 yards per kickoff return, with a long of 61 yards, and 12.4 yards per punt return.

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