Senior Receiver Takes Last Shot at Egg Bowl Success

There was nothing schematically special or gameplan gimmicky about it. Mississippi State’s big offensive evening against Arkansas was the result of...yes, the E-word, according to Fred Ross.

“We executed, it’s as simple as that. We executed and made the plays we needed to make.”

Yes. As simple as that. The Bulldog offense called initial plays, adjusted as needed on the field, snapped the ball and just plain executed. Enough so to put up points and statistics and excitement.

“I think that’s the most point we’ve scored and the most yards we’ve had,” said Ross.

Not quite on either count. Mississippi State netted more yards in consecutive weekends with Samford and Texas A&M, as well as at Massachusetts. More points were produced in those games with the two smaller programs as well.

Now were Ross to call it State’s most efficient effort against a SEC peer, he’d be right. The Bulldog offense made plays, scored either on extended drives or big shots, and for three quarters were as good and at times better. It was that single second period with three points-less series that doomed the Dogs to defeat.

It also left Mississippi State (4-7, 2-5 SEC) with one final opportunity to execute start-to-finish. And, to end the schedule on the most positive possible note in Saturday’s Battle for the Golden Egg.

“Win. That’s the main goal this week,” senior Ross said. “Just win the game.”

As this frustrating 2016 season has ground along the Bulldog offense has increasingly carried its share of the load. More, even. In a fall where every SEC squad seems to have taken a turn for the offense-ive, State is setting a productive pace too.

This was the norm when Dak Prescott was running the show. Yet even with State’s all-timer now on a playoff pace with Dallas, his heirs are keeping up. State has four 500-yard games this season already, and a league-leading 17 over the last three years.

Ross is one reason why. He likely won’t match his season-record-setting of 2015, certainly not playing one less game. Ross will still post one of the top two- or -three seasons ever by a Bulldog wideout as he enters the Egg Bowl with 67 catches, 835 yards, and 11 touchdowns.

That also adds up to easily the best statistical career at State. Ross already has the records for 2,446 yards and 194 catches. His 21 touchdowns trail only Chad Bumphis (24) and De’Runnya Wilson (22), meaning with a really huge finale he could claim the career ‘trifecta’ for receivers.

Of course victory could well require Ross to set records along with the rest of the offense, passing and rushing alike. Because the Bulldog defense is having a miserable month with 600-plus yards allowed in three of the last four weekends. There’s no reason to expect State will suddenly shut down an opponent which pushes the pace and puts up points this weekend either.

“Our job is to just worry about us,” Ross said. “Not to sound cliché or nothing like that but we can’t worry about if the defense is stopping them or not. Our goal is to score as many points as we can. That’s all we’re going to do.”

Maybe it will be enough to win the weekend and change recent trends. Host Ole Miss upset State two years ago in Oxford, and dominated last year’s visit to Scott Field. Consecutive rivalry losses have sadly coincided with State’s best consecutive seasons, ever, and spoiled some of the 2014-15 fun.

Ross missed the last win, sidelined by a shoulder injury when State was the upset-tor in 2013. “When I first got here I didn’t know how big this rivalry was,” the native Texans said.

“But I found out quickly after my freshman year. After we won that trophy the way the celebration was, it was crazy. We need to get that trophy back.” Should the Bulldogs win back the Egg it will be rated as, yes, another upset. Because the home team is favored despite breaking in a new quarterback and coming off an ugly loss of their own, at Vanderbilt.

Ross hadn’t scouted the rival prior to Monday’s practice. “But from what I’ve heard they have a great team. And it doesn’t matter how good a year they’ve had, this game they always seem to find a way to play good against us. So we have to find a way to match that intensity.”

That way is, obviously and simply, to execute. Better than last week if possible, and most of all in those inevitable situations where a rivalry game changes on just one unpredictable play. Do that and Ross, at last, can really share in celebrating with that trophy.

“Because you don’t want to end your college career on a sour note. You want to end it winning. So, win the game.”

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