Bulldog Football Scouting Report/Notebook

The Game: Mississippi State (2-3, 0-2 SEC) completes the non-conference schedule for this regular season hosting Bowling Green (5-1, 3-0 MAC). Kickoff at Scott Field is 6:38 for FSN/ESPN3 telecast. The local radio broadcast begins at 3:30 from the Junction, and full network at 4:30.

*Mississippi State is 2-1 in home games this season with both wins over non-conference opponents. Coach Dan Mullen is 11-2 playing non-SEC teams at Scott Field, and his teams have a 15-game winning streak in all regular-season games against teams that were not in BCS leagues at the time.

*Mullen has 31 total victories at State, making his the fourth-winningest coach in program history already. He needs 37 to catch Emory Bellard (1979-85) for third place.

*This is Mississippi State's first matchup with a member of the Mid American Conference.

*This is Homecoming Weekend on campus, with the first such football game in 1937. Bulldog teams are 50-21-3 in these events and have won three-straight. The last loss, to Houston in 2009, was also Mullen's last regular-season loss out side SEC play.

*Bowling Green last defeated a SEC member in 1985, defeating Kentucky.

The Opponent: To say the least, this is not your usual sort of Homecoming guest. These Falcons (our apologies for previously and incorrectly listing as another sorta bird) are on a flight path to play for the MAC title, currently pacing the East Division. But first they will take a swipe at knocking off a BCS league member, which BGSU last did in 2008. And Dave Clawson's club now does it in old-school style, eschewing the fling-it-around style fans associate with weeknight MAC games. The fifth-year coach has rebuilt by being physical on both sides, and keeping his top staff together unlike most conference peers. With a five-game conference stretch looming, including showdowns with Ohio and Buffalo, nothing would better accelerate a run to the MAC title game than knocking off a SEC squad. Oh, and it would also make the Falcon bowl-eligible by mid-October.

Offense: As noted, these guys keep it basic: they pound the ground and do it efficiently, an approach Clawson changed to two years ago. The Falcons have rushed for 200 yards eight times the past couple of seasons, four of them this year already. Taking the '13 rushing game to another level is converted wideout Travis Greene, who only moved to tailback in spring but has thrived with three-straight 100-yard games. He's 12th in the NCAA in rushing right now, but is just one of several Falcon runners who get it done. Such as walk-on frosh William Houston, a 260-pounder who has scored seven times already on goal-line blasts. Clearing his way is an offensive line centered on senior David Kekuewa, a 311-pound pounder and Rimington nominee. With Lombardi nominee Dominic Flewellyn on his hip, and a 316-pound tackle, the muscle leans distinctly to the left side of this line; and the Falcons use a true blocking tight end to boot. No wonder BGSU has converted almost half their third-down situations as well as scored on 24 of their 26 red-zone chances, and the other two were kneel-down situations. Senior quarterback Matt Schilz came into the season with 35 starts and owns 50 career touchdown passes. Yet he's yielded the job to soph Matt Johnson who only threw for 357 yards in his first start and was MAC player of the week. Johnson leads the league in passing efficiency, completing 65% with nine touchdowns, and he can scramble for a few yards too. He needs to at times as Falcon passers have been sacked 15 times. Slot receiver Ryan Burbrink nets almost 17 yards per catch, while starting wideouts Shaun Joplin and Chris Gallon have 49 catches between them for 635 yards and three scores. Meaning, all that solid ground-pounding has nicely set up the air game. Many BCS teams can envy this balanced output.

Defense: It isn't complicated on this side. Stop the run and good things ensue. And with nine starters back from a top-ten (yardage) unit the Falcon defense knows what it is doing as they lead the MAC in scoring, yardage, first downs, and red zone work. Having a pair of seniors starting inside is certainly a strong starting point to build around with 284-pound tackle Ted Ouellet and 296-pound Jairus Campbell lined up on the center. Those aren't lightweights on the ends either, and BGSU's practice of redshirting also means juniors Bryan Thomas and Charlie Walker are in their fourth seasons in the system. Just about the entire front has been projected as all-MAC with good reason. Voters are paying lots more attention mid-season to ‘buck' linebacker D.J. Lynch, another junior who finds himself atop the tackles list with 35 stops and a sack. This likely means blocking is sent first towards rover Gabe Martin, another Lombardi watch list member who has ‘just' 24 tackles through six games. He's still the one to account for first. The three ‘backers average out at 236 pounds by the way. Any opponent giggling about a unit led by somebody named ‘BooBoo' gets serious as soon as strong safety Gates arrives for the next hit. He's up for the Hornung Award and lots of other honors. The corners are covered by seniors Aaron Foster and Cameron Truss with eight breakups between them. The only item lacking so far is interceptions, with just one picked pass out of 191 thrown their way. Gates got that one of course. But because their offense doesn't lose the ball often BGSU is well into the positive for turnover margin.

Specialists: This is where the Falcons try for really big plays, with seven return touchdowns during Clawson's tenure and 15 blocked kicks of various sorts. Back Ronnie Moore and Gates return the kickoffs, with Burbrink fielding punts and netting 12.4 yards-per with one touchdown. Tyler Tate is 13-of-18 on career field goals with a 45-yarder to his credit this season, though he's just tried one in the last three games. Brian Schmiederbusch (good luck) gets just over 40 yards punting and coverage has been stout.

Bulldog Notebook: Senior OG Gabe Jackson has started all 44 games of his Bulldog career, and is now tied with Johnthan Banks (2009-12) for starts under Mullen.

*Mississippi State ranks first in SEC kickoff returns at 32.9 yards. WR Jameon Lewis has returns of 66 and 46 yards while WR Brandon Holloway owns a 95-yarder that ended on the one-yard line.

*The Bulldogs are right there with the league leaders in turnover ratio, just one behind Missouri and Texas A&M in net takeaways. State has lost only one fumble in five games.

*State is one of three SEC teams that has not turned the ball over in the red zone.

*The Bulldogs are also second-best in possession time.

*The offense has produced gains of 10 or more yards on 79 plays, or 21% of their snaps. And this doesn't include several big plays negated by penalty.

*State is third in conference red-zone offense average, scoring 20 of 23 chances. But only 14 of these were touchdowns, and there have been three missed field goals.

*This offense is next-to-last in converting on third downs at under 36%, better than only Kentucky.

*And State has been outscored in fourth quarters 49-17. The best period for Bulldogs is the second with a 79 to 24 domination.

*In his return to action after an opening-day concussion, QB Tyler Russell broke the record he'd chased since last November. His first touchdown pass against LSU tied the career record set by Derrick Taite (38, 1993-96); then Russell broke it in the same quarter with #39.

*Russell was 7-of-11 against the Tigers, after going 10-of-16 in his three quarters in the opener.

*Russell now is alone in fourth place for career completions at 356. He needs six more to catch Taite for third place. His 57.7% career rate is third-best among all Bulldog passers. He is fifth in yardage (4,845).

*Russell's average completion in SEC play has been good for 13.2 yards, compared to 13.9 in non-conference play.

*He isn't top-ten in rushing or passing. QB Dak Prescott is though among the league's leaders in producing touchdowns ranking #4 this week.

*For his career Prescott has rushed or thrown on 215 plays, and produced 17 touchdowns; or one every 13 such plays. And this doesn't count his touchdown catch against Troy.

*That was the game Prescott and Lewis combined to make SEC history as both scored rushing, receiving, and passing touchdowns. It was the first time a conference team had two players do this in the same game.

*Prescott's 6.5 yards each rush is the best average on the team.

*Lewis though has scored four ways, including his kickoff return TD in the '12 Egg Bowl, the only Dog on this squad to do so.

*Lewis also fields punts but has been held in-check so far with just one yard on six return attempts.

*Lewis has stepped to the fore in State receiving with 19 catches and 359 yards for three scores. In his previous two seasons combined he had 17 balls for 251 yards and one touchdown.

*Damian Williams became the first true freshman to take a snap at quarterback for Mullen at Mississippi State, working in both the ASU and Troy games.

*RB LaDarius Perkins is nearly 100% after a month of ankle issues, which has put him far-behind in trying to repeat as a 1000-yard rusher. The senior has 190 yards in four games, on just 39 carries.

*Perkins is looking for his first rushing touchdown since October 20 of last season.

*In the first four games, TEs Malcolm Johnson and Brandon Hill were averaging 15.7 yards per catch. LSU held Johnson to 19 yards on two grabs and Hill was shut out.

*M.Johnson, Robert Johnson, and Lewis are the only Dogs with a catch every game this season.

*WR Robert Johnson's 158 yards in four games this season almost matches the 164 yards he had all of 2012 in 13 games.

*Prescott and RBs Josh Robinson and RB Derrick Milton are the only Dogs to have rushed in every game.

*Eight Bulldogs have now scored a touchdown this season. WR De'Runnya Wilson joined the list with his 59-yard scoring catch, from Russell, last week.

*This includes a defensive TD as CB Jamerson Love returned his pick on Troy for a 70-yard score. It was the first defensive touchdown for State since the 2012 opener against Jackson State.

*P Baker Swedeburg hasn't gotten much work lately. He didn't punt at all in the Troy game, then was only called on once against LSU, to hit a 42-yarder. So he still stands 9th in both career punts and yardage.

*Swedenburg's 41.84 yard average is 5th-best in program annals.

*In Mullen's five seasons, his defenses have now scored 11 defensive touchdowns on either interceptions or fumble returns; and three safeties.

*State special teams have blocked one field goal (S Nickoe Whitley) and one punt (DT Nelson Adams) this season.

*Senior Whitley had his first two-interception day as a Dog by picking a pair of Auburn passes. He now has 12 career interceptions, tied for second and four short of the all-time record shared by Johnthan Banks (2009-12) and Walt Harris (1992-95).

*Whitley has missed one whole game and parts of others, so he's only accumulated 21 tackles this season. He has 195 career tackles in 39 games.

*After being tied through three games, the team tackles race sees MLB Benardrick McKinney now ahead of OLB Deontae Skinner 28 to 26. Their totals would be far higher of course had State not blown-out Alcorn State and Troy, allowing lots of defensive subbing.

*Senior Skinner is the only defender so far with both a sack and an interception.

*State has only eight sacks through five games, by seven different Dogs. DE Preston Smith is the lone two-timer at this point.

*Both his baggings came last week against LSU.

*Smith also leads in total stops for losses at 4.0, though freshman DT Chris Jones is coming on strong with 3.5. Jones leads in quarterback hurries at 4 compared to Smith's 3.

*A total of 21 defenders have gotten in on a tackle for loss.

*PK Devon Bell has already surpassed his '12 season's total of 13 touchback kickoffs with 14. And that total would be higher had LSU not returned five other kickoffs that went well into the end zone.

*Bell hit his first two field goals against LSU, then missed a 42-yarder to make him 5-of-9 on the season. He did make his first kick attempted from the 30-to-39-yard range this year though after three misses.

*Seven true freshmen have played this season: CB Kivon Coman, CB Tolando Cleveland, DT Chris Jones, WR Fred Ross, RB Ashton Shumpert, QB Damian Williams, and WR De'Runnya Wilson.

*True freshmen yet to play are: WR Shelby Christy, OL Jamaal Clayborn, OL Kent Flowers, WR B.J. Hammond, LB Dezmond Harris, DB Gabe Myles, TE Artimas Samuel, OL Jake Thomas, DB Brandon Wells.

*Only three scholarship redshirts from 2012 have yet to play: CB Will Redmond (susp), TE Gus Walley (inj), and DT Jordan Washington. Redmond is eligible at last to play starting this weekend.


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