[Premium site article. Portions of this article are on the free site football skuttle-butt section.] Coach Sherrill and several players discuss the upcoming game with Florida.


On Florida.
"Florida is the number 2 team in the nation. They were number 3 when we played them last year. The difference in Florida this year is the timing and effectiveness of Rex Grossman and their receivers. Their receivers have improved, and they are very talented at going to get the football and making things happen after the catch. They will get their passes to their receivers. Their routes are excellent. You have to take the timing away from them. If they have to they will go to max protection where they will keep both backs in and even keep the tight end in. They have some fifth-year players. Lito Sheppard is very dangerous on defense and on kickoffs and punt returns. The speed they have on special teams is really impressive. They have the ability to put more speed at every position than anyone else. Looking all the way back to the 90's, they have thrown more touchdown passes than anyone in the country. They use both of their running backs very similar to the way we use Dontae (Walker) and Dicenzo (Miller). Robert Gillespie is more of their speed guy. He makes you miss him, and he has good hands. Their other running back (Earnest) Graham certainly has a lot of speed, but he is very physical as well. The difference is they will have both of theirs, and we will likely be without Dicenzo.

Will Dicenzo Miller's injury linger?
"No, the difference is it is a high ankle sprain. He can move his foot up and down, and he can run straight ahead. When you have a high ankle sprain there is no way to tape it. Because of that, everytime you turn and twist, then you get the pain. You can tape the ankle for stability, but you will still have the pain everytime you turn. An offensive lineman could possibly play with this kind of injury, but a back who turns and cuts like he does, then there's the possibility you can't play him."

What he has seen from Florida this season.
"They did not play Tennessee, so we haven't been able to see what Florida really has. They are fresh, and we haven't seen Florida play under the gun. There is a difference in the talent level of the teams they've played so far, so we haven't been able to see what Florida really has. Playing at home is an advantage for them. This is their first SEC home game, and it is a difficult place to play."

The noise level at Florida.
"The noise level is the same there as anywhere else. Our stadium has been as loud as their's is at times. We took the noise out in '93, but they got it back very quickly after the big kickoff return for a touchdown. We now have the Florida rule that states students can't sit behind the opponents bench. That possibly makes it more difficult because now they are in the end zone and that is where the noise is."

The mentality of the team.
"They have practiced well. Going back to the South Carolina game, we did not have a player that made a play to win the game. That is the first time that has happened. We just did not play to make big plays. We had plenty of chances. We had seven throws where we make one catch and we had a chance to make a big difference in the game. That game is over with and is history. Now, you go ahead and move forward."

Mario Haggan's play, so far.
"He played a lot better in the second game. He uses his hands well."

How much will you play Dontae Walker and Fred Reid?
"We may not alternate them as much as we do with Dontae and Dicenzo, but Fred will play. How much we will play him, I don't know. Fred can give us speed."

Is Florida a better defensive team this year?
"Yes. I think they will lock their two cornerbacks on our receivers. They will bring the strong safety up and play the tight end man to man, then bring the weak safety up and play nine people on the line of scrimmage. They will do what they have to do to stop the run. We will have to be able to run but we will also have to be able to throw the ball. It is important that our receivers beat their defensive backs."

Will you use the same receiver rotation that you have used the first two games?
"We are going to play the players that make the plays. Now it is time the players make the plays. If you make a play, you will play, if you don't, you won't play. I tell the players that you always will play like you practiced."

The play of middle linebackers T. J. Mawhinny and Kamau Jackson.
"They have made some plays but also didn't make some plays that they should have. They are good football players. They improved from the first game to the second game and they will improve more and more. I am very glad that we have both of them."


On Florida.
"They have good quarterbacks, receivers, running backs. They are the number two team in the country. It is going to be a good game. I don't know what to expect since it is my first SEC road game."

Is it good to have a game like this after the tough South Carolina game?
"That was a tough loss. We just didn't play good. We are going to put that behind us and go to Florida and, hopefully, bring back a win."

You mentioned earlier that the defense did not do a good job against South Carolina. What was wrong?
"Missed assignments. We just didn't do a good job on the front. The DBs did a good job but we, the front six and seven, didn't do a good job."

Was part of it due to inexperience?
"I don't know if it was inexperience, we just came out flat and they just kept running on us. They pounded on us and we couldn't do anything right. We missed assignments and missed gaps. We just didn't do the right things."

Do you feel you improved from the first game to the second game?
"No, I played horrible my second game, horrible. That was one of the worse games that I have ever played. I did about everything wrong. I was over persuing, not being patience with all the misdirection that South Carolina did."


With you being a Florida native, are you looking forward to going back to Florida and playing?
"Yes sir, I can't wait. I have been waiting for this opportunity for a long time."

What qualities will you bring to this rotation of you and Donate Walker?
"I bring speed and quickness. I am a smaller back so it is harder for them to find me in the backfield."

On Florida's defense.
"Florida's defense is very fast. We are going to have to play very physical on offense."

Have you ever attended a game at the University of Florida?
"No sir, I haven't."

Does that intimidate you at all?
"No sir, actually I can't wait. They didn't recruit me coming out of high school. I just want to go down there and show Steve Spurrier what he missed out on. It was a place that I would have attended if they had recruited me because it is close to home."


The play of the wide receivers during the South Carolina game.
"We played kind of sluggish. There were plays we knew we should have made. We had enough practice but as far as game-speed, that was something that we had not had."

Have you seen much film of them?
"We have watched very little film of them because it is early in the week (Monday). We feel like they are going to do like they did last year. We are expecting a lot of man coverage."


MSU defeated Florida last year; do you expect there will be a revenge factor from Florida?
"Florida is a great team. They are number 2 in the country. I think that Florida, in the back of their minds, remembers what Mississippi State did to them last season. I've heard rumors that they painted a Maroon strip with the Mississippi State score. It is going to be a big challenge but I think if we go down there and play Mississippi State-styled football we will have a chance."

You were on national television (ESPN) against South Carolina and lost. Now you have a chance to play on national television again (CBS). Do you see this as a way to show the nation how good Mississippi State really is?
"There is no doubt. Against South Carolina, I don't know if we could have played much worse than we did. Even then, we still should have won the game. We have so much potential but potential only means you haven't done it yet. Hopefully, this will be our coming out game."

What are you going to do in practice to make sure that you don't have a South Carolina game again?
"I think we are going to try and get a lot more out of practice. We will try and get people to practice harder. Like a lot of people say, if you don't make a play in practice, you aren't going to make it in a game."

Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. You can contact him by email at

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