Bulldog Football Scouting Report

The Game: Mississippi State (0-1) opens the home schedule hosting Alcorn State (1-0). Game time at Scott Field is 2:35 for CSS telecast. Pre-game radio airs locally at 11:30am on 100.9FM and 96.3FM, with the full statewide network taking over at 12:30.

*Mississippi State is 84-26-2 in all home-field opening games. Against non-conference competition the record is 75-20-5. Bulldog teams have won the last six home debuts against non-SEC teams dating back to 2007.

*Dan Mullen is 3-1 in all homefield debut games, and 4-0 in non-conference matchups.

*Two of these wins, 2009 and '12, have been at the expense of the SWAC. Both came over Jackson State.

*The 2010 Bulldogs beat the Braves 49-16 in the only meeting of these programs, who happen to be the state of Mississippi's two land-grant institutions.

*Last Saturday's loss to Oklahoma State makes Mullen 16-4 against non-SEC teams, with consecutive losses now including the Gator Bowl defeat by Northwestern.

*There are six active Bulldogs on the '13 roster who played in that 2010 game, including starters LG Gabe Jackson and FS Nickoe Whitley.

The Opponent: A hasty hiring has paid some early benefits, as Jay Hopson doubled the team's victory total in his first season. OK, that was from 2-8 to 4-7, but in a program that struggles to stay afloat in I-AA sports this was genuine progress. Doubts remain among the SWAC observers still as Alcorn State is predicted to finish in the East Division cellar again. And stability is a tall order after years of upheavals that mean there are just four, four seniors on the 2013 roster. Still this gives the latest coach a chance to build his way, and the Braves might be showing a little more bite in year-two after a strong opener. Besides, almost any sort of real success will bring former Ole Miss defensive back Hopson interest in the next round of coaching candidacies.

Offense: Never mind the opponent was named for a person. Scoring 63 points, 49 of it in the first half, must be respected. And only one of the touchdowns was provided by the defense. The Braves balanced their attack with 280 rushing and 184 passing yards, converted over half their third downs and all three of the fourth-down opportunities. So they'll come to campus with a degree of confidence. John Gibbs Jr. won the quarterback job as a freshman and beat-out four preseason challengers this year to keep it. He was 15-of-20 in the opener for 184 yards and one touchdown; then ran for another 59 yards on just three (!) tries and another score. Houston transfer T.J. Menning is in a backup role for now. Alcorn State lists a full-time four-wides set and of the eight rotating receivers only one is a senior. He, Tavoris Doss, led the team in game one with three grabs including that one touchdown play. There's some good size at the split end spots as well. Senior Arnold Walker is the workhorse runner, turning 16 game-one totes into 75 yards with touchdowns of 1, 4, and 12 yards. Junior Anthony Williams III ran nine more times for 50 yards and two more touchdowns. The wild card is Joe Price, a one-time State commit who is listed as a receiver but rushed nine times last week for 54 yards…and didn't catch a pass. No surprise Alcorn State pounded the ball against Edward Waters; the Braves have a massive offensive line by SWAC or much any standards with a 325-pound left tackle and 367-pound left guard. There are no seniors in that two-deep either meaning the rest of the league will be seeing those five guys together for a while.

Defense: Obviously this is a tough bunch to evaluate if based only on one '13 game against an unknown opponent. Was Edward Waters' quarterbacking that bad, or the Braves defense that good? More likely some of both as ASU held EWC to 3-of-14 passing with two picks and 54 total yards. Alcorn State bases out of an odd-front with lots of meat in the middle, tackles Carrington Aoese and Deion McNair at 300 and 290 pounds respectively. It is 255-pound Deion Roberson counted on to make things happen though as longtime defensive coach Hopson has moved him from linebacker—where he had 15 tackles for losses last year—to end. William Thomas organizes things from the middle linebacker spot and had a team-best 5.5 tackles last weekend. The pair of interceptions in the opener were both courtesy of guys named Williams; strong-side ‘backer Jestin and free safety Anthony. The Braves were stout against the pass, best in the SWAC last season and #4 in FCS football. Senior Jamison Knox has the big names as a cover-corner, listed on the left side. Of course their head coach was the defensive backs boss at Marshall, Southern Mississippi, and Ole Miss so he has a feel for this sort of stuff. It's an interesting matchup to say the least against a bunch of young Bulldog receivers.

Specialists: Alcorn State found a fine kicker in freshman Haiden McCraney. He debuted last week by making all eight PATs and averaged 42.5 yards on his punts. Just two punts to be sure, but it's a good start, and three of his eight kickoffs went for touchbacks. Knox's athleticism earned him punt return tasks, but good luck guessing which of the three guys who took an opening-day turn will be fielding kickoffs this week.

Bulldog Notebook: The 2012 Bulldog offense set season records for touchdowns. The 2013 offense was unable to reach an end zone, only the third time in Mullen's four seasons that State didn't score at least one touchdown. All have been against ranked teams.

*Bulldog punt coverage was tied for second-best in the NCAA last season with just six yards allowed in 13 games. Oklahoma State had seven net yards on two returns in the opener.

*Still the other four kicks by P Baker Swedenburg were unreturned with three fair-catches. He averaged 45.0 yards on six punts.

*Swedenburg is #10 in career punts and yardage at State. He has booted balls 134 times for 5,580 yards, or 3.2 miles. His career average is fifth-best in program history.

*WR/KR Jameon Lewis got his junior year in kickoff return off to a good start. He had a 66-yarder in the second quarter and 26 yards on the other attempt. Lewis had 517 yards on 20 returns all last season with one touchdown, a 100-yarder in the Egg Bowl.

*Lewis is the only active Bulldog with a touchdown rushing, receiving, and returning.

*He began his junior year with a team high five catches, for 55 yards.

*FS Nickoe Whitley's block, of a second-quarter field goal, was his first rejection in college. He is also the only current Bulldog with a block of any sort.

*Whitley has 179 career tackles and has started 32 of his 36 games. He has forced one fumble every season so far.

*Whitley also has ten career interceptions, by far most on this team.

*PK Devon Bell hit one of this two field goal tries, giving him 15 for his career in 22 attempts. He is 43-of-44 on PATs.

*The Bulldog defense didn't do much to improve their #100 NCAA ranking in 2012 sacks as they failed to bring down either Oklahoma State quarterback for a loss.

*And after ranking #5 in NCAA turnover ratio last season, State didn't force an interception or fumble in the opener.

*Four of the five best passing-percentage seasons by a Bulldog quarterback, and all the top three, have been under Mullen's management.

*QB Tyler Russell had a rough senior-season debut in every sense. He took two hard to-the-head tackles and the second ended his opener at 2:50 of the third quarter with a concussion. He is doubtful for the first home game of his upperclassman campaign.

*Before getting sidelined, Russell was 10-of-16 for 133 yards with one turnover. Over half that output came on six first-quarter completions for 78 yards.

*Russell still moved up into a tie for 4th in career completions with Tony Shell (1988-90) at 349. And he is fifth in career yardage at 4,699, as well as third-best in completions percentage (57.6%).

*But he might have to wait a week to go for first in career touchdown passes. He began the year with 37, one behind Derrick Taite (1993-96).

*RB LaDarius Perkins is chasing the career all-purpose yards record. He has 3,565 as a senior and is on pace to break Anthony Dixon's (2006-09) mark of 4,443 yards rushing, receiving, and returning.

*Perkins became just the ninth Bulldog to rush for 1,000 yards in a season, doing it for the 12th time in program history. He had 1,024 last year, despite missing one game with injury.

*Mullen has had a 1,000-yard rusher in three of four seasons.

*Perkins' last touchdown rush was October 20 of last season, a seven-game drought.

*He did catch two touchdowns in the Arkansas game though, his first scoring receptions of the season. Perkins had five TD catches the previous two years, and has scored 20 total times as a Bulldog. He is looking for that first kick-return touchdown.

*TE Malcolm Johnson had ten catches and 171 yards playing half of a 2012 season. In his '13 debut, and coming off a preseason injury, Johnson had four balls for 55 yards.

*QB Dak Prescott had a better passing percentage than Russell last season. But he was 7-of-17 in this opener.

*MLB Benardrick McKinney was a freshman sensation, the leading SEC tackler in his rookie class last year with 102 total stops. That was also fifth-best among all NCAA freshmen.

*OG Gabe Jackson should claim the Mullen-era starts mark soon. He has opened 40 games under this coach, consecutively in fact. John Banks started 44 times under Mullen.

*Jackson's 40 games-played are also most on this '13 roster.

*Four true freshmen played in the 2013 opener: CB Kivon Coman, DT Chris Jones, WR Fred Ross, WR De'Runnya Wilson. State played five true freshmen in all 2012, and three each of the previous two seasons.

*Six 2012 redshirts were activated in the '13 opener: DT Nelson Adams, LB Beniquez Brown, LB Richie Brown, S Deonte Evans, DE A.J. Jefferson, and LT Justin Senior. It has not been officially verified if WR Brandon Holloway did or did not play, but he appears to have gotten on the field late with his participation incorrectly credited to DB Brandon Wells who did not play.

*And juco transfers WR Jeremy Chappelle and CB Justin Cox both played in their first senior college game.

*Other 2012 scholarship redshirts who have yet to be activated: TE Gus Walley (inj), S Quadry Antoine, OC Devon Desper, OT Cole Carter, WR Fred Brown, DT Jordan Washington.

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