Junior Linebacker Also Likes the Look of 2016 Team Taking Shape in Bowl Camp

CHARLOTTE – Richie Brown is as straight-faced as a Bulldog gets. So when the clueless TV reporter asks the junior linebacker about emotions before a final college game, Brown doesn’t blink. He just slides his answer in the right direction, same as he would turn a running back towards a tackler.

“I mean it’s been a fun year, and we’re ready to send the seniors out the right way.”

The right way being a winning way, of course. Mississippi State (8-4) has every opportunity to end the 2015 season with one more victory as they take on North Carolina State (7-5) tomorrow in the Belk Bowl. Oh, and just because he’ll be back for more in 2016…don’t question Brown’s incentive walk off a winner alongside his upperclassmen.

“It’s one last chance to showcase your team and play with your team and play with your seniors.” Besides, Brown agrees, fans often forget that there are only 13 game days in a Mississippi State season. In a calendar year that’s not a whole lot of time spent actually playing football.

So any suggestions that bowling has become boring for the Bulldogs…nope. Not this Dog especially.

“It’s always a lot of fun. Not to mention all the activities. It’s like a mini-vacation. Especially when you’ve got a wife. She enjoys it too!” Even better, Richie and Erin don’t have to foot the travel, lodging, and dining bills. Though, it will go unreported which Brown did most of the selecting during Mississippi State’s Monday night Belk store visit to pick up $500 worth of bowl booty.

Picking up a Wednesday victory? That’s on Brown and comrades. The Bulldogs certainly expect to score points, what with the second-most productive offense in program history lining up for one final show. By the same token North Carolina State knows how to move a football, and averaged practically the same scoring as did the Dogs this season.

“They’re a good offense,” Brown said. “They’re very high-tempo, they like to move the ball fast and do a lot of motion, a lot of eye-candy. So we have to be locked in.” And, once locked on to the ball, put that Wolf down on the ground. If there are two gripes with the Dog defense in 2015, it has been not finishing off enough tackles; and not forcing enough turnovers.

Brown isn’t one for regrets, exactly. The stat sheet shows he’s done his part much more often than not, with a team-best 102 tackles. A dozen of those came in the Egg Bowl no less. Brown also had 5.5 sacks with an even-dozen tackles for losses, tripling his output of the previous two seasons.

A very good year, yes. Yet Brown agrees this defense and team were close to bigger things and a better season. “Obviously there’s some plays here and there that we could have done better, that could have changed the whole outlook of our season. I know like three plays in the Alabama game could have changed a lot.

“But that’s all the past, we’ve had a good year. So we have to capitalize and make sure we finish off the right way.” And, Brown reports, give the seniors their most fitting finish. Maybe most of all the trio who have to watch what would have been their last game; Ryan Brown, Kendrick Market, Will Redmond, the injured-and-out Dogs.

“So we’re obviously trying to play for the guys that aren’t playing. We love them, I’ve been with them for four years now. So we’re going to try to do everything we can to send them out the right way.”

At the same time, the Belk Bowl has put 2016 parts in motion already. Brown likes what he has seen during bowl camp from allllll his fellow underclassmen. Likes it a lot.

“I think this team is going to be a good team next year. We’ve got a lot of talent returning and some young guys that are going to be developed. You’d be amazed at what one off-season can do for these young guys, especially this bowl practice has been helping a lot.”

Here Brown speaks from experience. After all, back in 2012 he was the redshirting freshman using Gator Bowl camp as a stepping stone into his varsity career. It’s been fun watching 2015 redshirts and reserves follow that same script with him as an old Dog.

One who at times feels how old, kind of. Which is another reason bowl games remain special to Richie Brown.

“It’s been a long year. But it’s gone by really quick! It’s all flying by, my whole college career is flying by pretty fast.”

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