Gene Swindoll, Gene's Page

Working Late Works For Rufus Warren

It’s not like Bulldog veterans aren’t used to arriving by daylight one day and exiting in the wee hours of the next. But a 9:00 kickoff? Yeah, that’s different says Rufus Warren. “We’re going to be looking in the third quarter and it’s probably going to be Sunday!”

The new week will certainly have begun by the time Mississippi State walks off the field. Working overtime is not foremost on the minds of Warren and fellow Bulldogs though. The ambitions don’t change with the clock.

These Dogs want A) a victory and B) a good showing for what will be a pretty expansive audience. The one advantage to opening at 9:00 is owning the timeslot for most of the country’s markets.

“We’re basically the last game that’s going to get played,” Warren noted. “So people will watch us.” Including, he hopes, the sort of folk who in July and August pegged Mississippi State to bring up the SEC Western Division rear. Warren wants the Bulldogs to make a major impression.

“And when they watch us, we want them to say we made a mistake!”

Coach Dan Mullen has spent most of two weeks warning his seventh State squad not to make a major mistake on opening night. Yes, the Bulldogs are supposed to defeat Southern Mississippi. Maybe not by anything like last year’s 49-0 margin, because this is a reputedly-improved Golden Eagle gang. They are acknowledged as a well-coached club with a respected staff.

Plus, Delta boy Warren is aware of intangible aspects. The blowout to begin 2014 could always leave a wrong impression in some MSU minds. So Warren is alert to over-confidence.

“It’s not like a Mississippi State and Ole Miss rivalry. But it’s most definitely a big rivalry for us. You look at Southern Miss, it’s the kids that didn’t get a chance to come her and went to Southern. So they’re going to be playing with a chip on their shoulder. So we’ve got to be ready for them.”

Of course Warren is going to be under a spotlight himself. The senior has played plenty of college games but this will be his first Mississippi State start. And, at the position this former tight end only moved too in spring 2014.

Since then Warren has worked his way up to first-team tackle, left tackle to be specific. Coach John Hevesy got him into action last season as a backup so it’s not entirely new. Starting? That is.

Which only makes the late start a little more stressful, right? “It’s going to definitely be a build-up,” Warren said. “I’m going to be tense, and ready to go. But once that leash comes off it’s going to be hard to stop me.”

That is what the offensive squad hopes. As great as Dak Prescott is, and as much potential as his backs and receivers display, football is still about the biggest bodies setting the State stage. And while a spread-system isn’t so dependent on ‘blind side blocking’ as a pro scheme, a big-time left tackle is a mighty fine thing to have.

So yes, there’s the pressure for Warren to prove this was his best move and position. He’s spent all August refining, well, everything. “I’m ready physically, and as far as my mental aspect I’m putting polish on the finishing aspects.”

If all goes well Warren shouldn’t have to finish the game out. Maybe by midnight he’ll be watching teammates instead of the clock. Warren said he is prepared to play as many snaps as necessary, up to the entire game.

“But we’ll just see Saturday.” Or Sunday.

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