Q & A with Miss. State's Gene Swindoll

Mississippi State's Scout.com publisher Gene Swindoll from GenesPage.com answered a few questions that BlueRaiderZone.com subscribers had pertaining to Mississippi State.

BlueRaiderZone.com Subscribers: What are some of the best OOC gameday environments(tailgating, home fan hospitality, stadium, campus, etc.) the Bulldog fans have encountered in recent years?
GenesPage.com Publisher: I rarely tailgate so I asked my subscribers to give me some of their best gameday experiences.
1) Oregon. I was fed steak (their own cattle). I was given several different Oregon Duck items like footballs, quackers, etc. There was never any smack talk. These people didn't even know my name, They didn't care. We just happened to park next to them pregame and we had a blast.
2) Agreed, has to be Oregon. Those fans were "fan"tastic! Very gracious and not a word of smack talk. Any here remember the duck fan who posted on the premium board? They had their indoor football facility open for lunch to be served and a band was playing. Beautiful stadium and campus. Very nice gameday experience.
3) I'm sure someone will disagree but my best experience was at West Virginia. I will admit, though, that it was in direct response to the great treatment we Dawgs gave their fans the year before. Everywhere I walked among their tailgaters, someone would come up and tell me what a great time they had in Starkville and how they were treated royally.

BlueRaiderZone.com Subscribers: What is the mentality of the team after losing a couple of close games to LSU and Houston?
GenesPage.com Publisher: They seem to be doing fine. They know they are just a couple of turnovers and a couple of penalties from being 4-2 or even 5-1, so they know they are a good team.

BlueRaiderZone.com Subscribers: How did the tradition of the cowbell get started at Mississippi State?
GenesPage.com Publisher: Nobody really knows how it all began. There are popular legends that it began in the late 1930s or early 1940s. The legend that has the biggest backing (and makes a good story) appears to be that a jersey cow, with a cowbell hanging around its neck, walked onto the playing field (folks don't know if she was bringing in a play or noticed some really tasty grass near the huddle) during a game between Mississippi State and their arch-rival the Ole Miss Rebels. The legend also goes on to say that since Mississippi State soundly defeated Ole Miss. the Mississippi State students adopted the cow as their good luck charm and continued to bring a cow to games. Of course, it was tough trying to ring the cow's cowbell by lifting her up and shaking her so they decided to leave the cow in the pasture and ring the cowbells instead. Of course, I'm joking a little bit but that is the legend that most people believe. Suffice it to say you will probably see a cowbell or two this weekend outside your stadium. And if there isn't anybody taking them up at the gates you'll hear them in the stadium as well.

BlueRaiderZone.com Subscribers: Who is the best player in Miss St. history?
GenesPage.com Publisher: That is debated on my forums quite a bit. Each person has their own opinion but since you are asking me I'll tell you who I think were some of the best. There are just too many to name one. But I will put them into categories.

The most colorful: Cornerback Fred Smoot, currently in the NFL, was the best pure cover corner in Mississippi State history and one of the best I ever saw in person. He rarely ever got beat in one on one coverage. He was also one of the most confident and cocky players that I have been around. But opposing players actually weren't offended by his cocky attitude. He would kid around with them on the field, not saying bad things to them but funny things. He was even that way in practices. To this day I miss seeing and hearing him in practice. Nobody could out-talk Fred Smoot, in games or in practice.

The most exciting: Current NFL running back Jerious Norwood could be electrifying at times due to his speed and quickness. If State had had a great offensive team when he was playing there he would have been a Heisman Trophy candidate. And to top it off, he is as good of a person as he is a player.

The most dominating: Offensive lineman Randy Thomas, currently in the NFL, completely dominated defensive linemen during his two-year career at State. And the legend is, due to his appetite, he could dominate buffets in Starkville as well. In fact, the rumor is a lot of closed signs went up in windows when the restaurant owners saw him coming.

BlueRaiderZone.com Subscribers: How do most Miss. St. fans feel about having a game in Murfreesboro?
GenesPage.com Publisher: Initially, State fans were a little upset. To be honest with you (and I don't mean this as a slight to your school or to your athletic program), you don't really expect an SEC team to travel to a Sun Belt school but Mississippi State is at the bottom of the barrel in the SEC when it comes to the budget so the athletic director has to do what he feels makes the best financial sense for Mississippi State. While other SEC schools can fork out $800,000 to $1,000,000 to buy a home game, Mississippi State simply can't afford to do that. They have to make deals that you rarely see other SEC schools make.

BlueRaiderZone.com Subscribers: Who will play quarterback this week and what are the strengths/weaknesses of each quarterback?
GenesPage.com Publisher: State has used two quarterbacks most of the time this season, but one of the two, Chris Relf, was suspended last week so MSU used one, Tyson Lee. And MSU head coach Dan Mullen is not telling fans or the media if Chris is available this week. But to answer your question I'm going to assume he will be available.

Tyson Lee, who starts and usually gets the vast majority of the snaps, is about 5-9 tall, maybe 5-10 at best. He is a pretty good runner and a fairly good passer. He'll complete a little over 50% of his passes. Two problems that he has had this year is getting passes batted down and fumbling.

Chris Relf is a big guy who is a very strong runner but his passing is not a strength of his. He basically gives you another running back in the backfield and a limited passer.

BlueRaiderZone.com Subscribers: What traits make Anthony Dixon special?
GenesPage.com Publisher: Dixon is a big, strong runner with fairly good speed. Plus, he is very durable. As for his physical strength, it's very, very hard to tackle him up high. University of Houston players tried to do that to him last week and he ran for a 50-yard TD with a couple of their guys literally hanging onto his upper body while he was running down the field. That play even made ESPN Sports Center due to how exciting it was to watch.

BlueRaiderZone.com Subscribers: What area(s) do you think are match-up problems for Miss. St. this weekend?
GenesPage.com Publisher: I think the biggest problem that Mississippi State will face is the fact that the Middle Tennessee State defense causes a lot of turnovers. And Mississippi State has been a turnover prone team this season, losing 10 fumbles and throwing 8 interceptions. A second problem is that MTSU's defense is also very good in the red zone, a place MSU hasn't been that effective when getting into that territory, scoring 75% of the time, 50% touchdowns. A third problem has been Mississippi State's secondary. Considering the MTSU QB appears to be a good passer that could prove to be a problem for the MSU defense.

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