Bulldog Back Plans Strong Finish as Fast Start to 2017 Successes

The post-Egg Bowl praise keeps coming, and Aeris Williams appreciates every word. “I’ve been thanking everybody for it.”

Everyone in Bulldog Country certainly appreciates what Williams did in Oxford. His 191 rushing yards and two touchdowns are excellent reasons why the Golden Egg resides safely again with Mississippi State. And, why Williams and team are still practicing football for a December game.

A bowl game. The Bulldogs earned a December 26 date in the St. Petersburg Bowl, where the 2016 team intends to bow-out on a high note. Oh, and the returning roster build even more momentum for 2017, per Williams.

“We’re going to do a great job of planning for (Miami-Ohio) and we’re going to expect a big win.”

Of course Williams and Mississippi State are coming off their biggest win. Potentially one of those ‘transformative’ wins, too, signaling the next turning-point for the program. 2016 brought more frustration than success overall…

…but beating the rival, on their field, to both bring back the trophy and steal their bowl berth turns most emotions around entirely. How the Bulldogs did it, well, that points 2017 in a better direction. Not just the last game, but the whole last month.

“We don’t like to lose,” Williams said. “We had to turn it around someway. We had to make something happen.”

Williams did his part with a top-15 rushing performance to end his sophomore schedule. That 7.6 yards per-rush average were also his season-high, and he doubled his 2016 touchdown total in one afternoon.

Wait, what? Williams only had two touchdowns through the first eleven games? Correct. Up to Oxford he’d rushed an even 100 times with only two trips into an end zone, against UMass and Texas A&M.

Post-season post-mortems can hash and thrash through Williams’ usage or lack thereof for all of 2016. What matters now and more so moving into ’17 is how he handled the whole season and enjoyed a big November. Which applies to the entire Bulldog offense, to be fair. Egg Bowl success wasn’t any finished product, just a preview of future fun.

“We just had to put the pieces together,” said Williams. And for himself? “I ain’t going to lie, it was just a process. Going through the process. It was God’s timing.”

Battered rival Rebels may prefer blaming another source they are more familiar with. For Mississippi State the sight of Williams complementing Nick Fitzgerald in an overpowering ground game—behind a melding-at-last offensive line—was heavenly. It also set the stage for these classmates to be on all-conference watch lists, especially if Williams and Fitzgerald reprise the Egg Bowl heroics with a big day in St. Petersburg.

Certainly after a season in rotation Williams is the recognized #1 running back at last. “And I’m going to keep it,” he said in a rare flash of personal ambition. He’s earned the right to bark a bit, of course, yet at same time it just doesn’t suit Williams’ style.

Which is also how a top-tier prospect has been able to serve his time as a redshirt, a reserve, a rotation back, and claim top status without getting frustrated along the long way. There was no one moment when things ‘clicked’ for Williams, he says.

“It was just being here with the program, just finding yourself from going from high school to college. You just have to find yourself. And when you find yourself ain’t no looking back.”

Or not until he flips the football to a referee and looks back at defenders left beaten along his route to the end zone. Then again, Williams never really has been one for the rear-view.

Not with the faster track opening up in front of him and so many 2016 underclassmen on a Bulldog offense that finished strong.

“And I think our years here, for Mississippi State I promise the running game is looking great. I promise you it’s going to be bright for the future.”

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