Senior Kivon Coman is thrilled to have another game to play. With the season on the brink and the Bulldogs' post season hopes fading, Coman and his fellow seniors did what they could to rally the troops into a memorable November.
Mississippi State would go on to knock off then #8 Texas A&M to begin the November slate and complete the regular season schedule with a 55-20 shelling of arch-rival Ole Miss. The Bulldogs won just enough to make their strong showing in the Academic Progress Report mean something when the final bowl invitations were extended.
"It feels great to have another opportunity to play with my brothers again. These guys are my family" Coman said with a sigh of relief. "We just want to go out and show the fans what to expect from next year's team. I think it's a really good opportunity for us."
Coman and the Bulldog graduating class will be the fourth consecutive senior class to have competed in a bowl game every year of their college careers. Mississippi State is the only school in Mississippi who can make that claim. Ending his college career with a post season berth is important to the Florence, Alabama native.
"It's great for us, because we want to continue the legacy that has been built here," Coman shared. "Coach (Dan) Mullen has done a great job of trying to get us where we need to go. This program is headed in the right direction."
With several talented underclassmen expected to challenge for starting positions next fall, the bowl practices and spring practice sessions will be a big part of preparing the players for those position battles. Coman believes the path to success is simple. Just follow the leader.
"You have to listen the older guys," Coman said. "I was buying into what they're telling me during bowl practices. It's really for the younger guys. You have to have so many reps to get better at one thing. When you're a young guy, you don't understand that until you get older. Those old guys beat that into us. You have to have this many reps to be legit at it."
Bowl games provide some great experiences at the bowl site. Players get the chance to take a longer road trip than normal, collect some nice gifts and play in venues not often on the regular season slate. With all of that in mind, Coman reports that the biggest benefit of all is the chance to get a jump start on spring football during the bowl preparations.
"It's very important," Coman said of the fifteen additional practices. "If you look at the four years that I was here and how many reps I got during bowl practices. Then look at how many teams who didn't get to go to bowl game over those four years. We got (60) more practices than they did. That makes it really important."
As a veteran player, Coman has done his part to try and assist the Bulldog coaches with a helping hand of his own with the younger players who are beginning to find their role on the Mississippi State team.
"Just take advantage of every opportunity that you get, man," Coman offered as words of wisdom. "You never know when you're time is up. If you play like every play is your last, then everything else will take care of itself."
The reckless abandon that Coman showed on the road at Oxford is a big reason the Bulldogs have another game to play. The talented senior reports that recapturing the Golden Egg for the Mississippi State program and fan base is something he will remember for a lifetime.
"It feels great. I haven't won it since my freshman year," Coman explained. "It's great to be able to do that for the University and the Mississippi State family and the Starkville family. It feels great to get it back here. It's where it belongs and it needs to stay here forever."
While the five touchdown blowout win over the Rebels in Oxford was fresh in their minds, Bulldog players returned to the locker room to find well wishes and congratulatory messages from former Bulldog players in texts and social media postings.
Coman reports that the Bulldog football fraternity was certainly pleased with the outcome of the regular season finale.
"We all stay in touch with each other," Coman said of his former teammates. "Taveze (Calhoun), Dak (Prescott), Preston (Smith) and all of those guys reach out to us all of the time. Once you come here, you're family. No matter where we go, it just stays that way."
Mississippi State and Miami of Ohio will tee it up December 26th at 10 AM central. The Bulldogs are a considerable favorite in the game, but the Redhawks enter the contest with a six game win streak. This weekend's St. Petersburg Bowl will be the first appearance for either team in the bowl's nine year history. It also be the first ever meeting between the two programs.