Dogs hope week off will give 'em boost

No doubt, Mississippi State's second off week of the season came at a good time with so many players hobbled with injuries.<P> Not only will the open date serve as a period of "R&R" for the injured players, but also as a reprieve from the strain the team has played under the past two games, following the announcement that the "Dean of the SEC Coaches" Mississippi State's Jackie Sherrill was retiring as at the end of the season.

Mississippi State appeared to have shaken the distractions in its last outing Oct. 25 at Lexington, Ky., jumping out to a 17-0 lead over the Kentucky Wildcats before a "Big Blue" avalanche buried the Dogs 42-17.

The 17-point margin brought back memories, at least temporarily, of how the Dogs had once upon a time, and not that long ago, chewed up opponents even within the rugged SEC, but of course, played out the game.

Sherrill, acknowledging the time off will help, said in the Kentucky game that it looked like all of a sudden the team just lost total concentration in all facets.

"We all had a part in it," he said. "We had a lot of problems because we lost a lot of players to injuries."

Of the multiple injuries, the most serious was the loss of cornerback Quinton Culberson, the first freshman to start in the season opener for the Bulldogs in 17 years. The highly-touted Jackson, Miss., product was sidelined in the first half with a broken leg. Senior receiver Justin Jenkins, SEC's leading receiver, absorbed a cut on his arm that required 16 stitches.

Jenkins was among an extensive list that missed practice Monday but should be okay for MSU's next game Saturday, Nov. 8 against Alabama at Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field. Others who missed practice were center Blake Jones, tight end Aaron Lumpkin, running back Jerious Norwood, and guards Will Rogers and Johnny Wadley.

The Bulldogs were scheduled to work out Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday during the week before getting some time off.

"The players wanted Friday and Saturday off to go home and watch some high school games and to go home and take a break," said Sherrill.

Alabama qualifies for a break from the action as well following a grueling 51-43 five-overtime loss to Tennessee at Tuscaloosa, Ala., last weekend.

Long a measuring stick in college football and around the SEC, the Crimson Tide has gone through a few distractions as well, among them three coaching changes in the last couple of years and back-to-back conference losses. Still 'Bama is a formidable opponent.

Mississippi State defeated Alabama 29-7 in the last meeting between the two schools in Starkville during the 2000 campaign. However, the Tide has posted back-to-back wins in the last two games with the Dogs, both played at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa. The Bulldogs turned back the Tide three straight years between 1996 and 1998.

MSU hoops take the spotlight...

Rick Stansbury's Bulldogs and Sharon Fanning's Lady Bulldogs basketball squads will scrimmage Saturday, November 1st, at the Newell-Grissom Building on campus. Both teams featuring a number of new faces, "Rick's Rowdies" will have to get out early to catch the Bulldogs who'll tip it off at 9 a.m.

However, the free scrimmage should be well worth an early breakfast and a cup of coffee with the fans to get a close-up look at a couple of seasoned veterans, senior backcourt star Timmy Bowers among them, along with a couple of newcomers, including highly-regarded 5-11 freshman guard Gary Ervin of Brooklyn, N.Y., and talented 6-9 Baylor transfer Lawrence Roberts of Houston, Tex., who has two years eligibility remaining.

Senior 6-8 forward-center Branden Vincent returns, along with junior guard-forward Winsome Frazier, a real spark off the bench last year, who'll vie for a starting role along with 7-0 junior center Marcus Campbell.

Junior forward Ontario Harper, a starter last year at forward is slowed by an injury during the off season and looks to be out for the season. Junior transfer guard-forward Shane Power is also coming off an injury. Senior two-sport standout 6-9 Lincoln Smith, who is currently playing football, will also be back later in the season.

Freshman guard-forward Dietric Slater is also on the scene, along with 6-9 freshman Piotr Stelmach of Kamien Pomorski, Pol., 6-9 sophomore Terry Licorish of Montreal, Canada.

Junior All-American candidate guard Tan White of Tupelo, Miss., will lead the 2003-04 MSU Lady Bulldog hoopsters into action. Seniors Jessica Carter (G), who led the SEC in 3-point shooting as a sophomore, Seneca Anderson (G-F), and Faithe McGhee all return.

Junior forward Rebecca Kates, who often is handed the unenviable task of guarding the opponents top scorer in the post, is another key returnee.

Although slowed by injuries, outstanding sophomore duo Doceide Warren (G) and Blessing Chekwa (G), should be rounding into playing shape.

A couple of newcomers figure prominently into the picture in transfer juco guard Tiana Burns, freshman forward-center Natasha Henderson and freshman forward Ashley Sentimore, along with Tiffany Burton (Jr-F), Ebonie Ferguson (Jr.-G), Mamie McKinney (So.-F), and Chalandra Hilliard (So.-F).

Don Foster, a veteran newspaper writer who is the Sports Editor for the Starkville Daily News, writes a weekly article for Gene's Page. He can be reached by email at

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