This team had high expectations coming into the season but, instead, the team has struggled throughout. How do the players keep from giving up when something like this happens?
"We do like we are doing now. We come to practice in full gear and get ready for the next team. We try to put last week's game behind us and continue going forward. I don't know how the team, as a whole, looks at it, but as an individual, that's how I look at it. Losing is hard, but there are things in the world that are bigger than losing (a football game). We'll win eventually."
Coach Sherrill mentioned this team's ego is so fragile right now that one play can affect its play. He was referring to the third play of the Alabama game where the Alabama player broke a tackle and scored a touchdown. Do you think a play like that is difficult for this team to overcome because of how fragile the players are right now?
"Yes, it is hard to overcome. When the game started, we had expectations that we would win the game. We came through the Bulldog Walk and it was great. We were in it, the fans were in it. Then, we made two big plays (on defense) and then they scored. When something like that happens, you get in your mind flashbacks to the Houston, LSU, Auburn games...all those big runs and big plays that went for a touchdown. You feel like, 'man, it is going to be a long day.' But that is just the first touchdown. But, when the same things continue to happen over and over again, then that kind of brings you down."
Chris McNeil mentioned last week it's like taking blow after blow and having to continue to get off the mat. It gets harder and harder each time to get back up off the mat. Is that statement pretty accurate?
"It is kind of hard regardless, especially when you are 2 and 7, you are in the SEC and you are sponsored by Nike and a division 1 team. We should be winning."
Is it confusing to you, especially when you know this team is not lacking in talent?
"We have tremendous talent. It just seems like something is not clicking. It is confusing. I can't tell you what it is. I don't know what it is."
I'm starting to think it's not coaching or talent, but with each loss, this team's confidence goes lower and lower.
"Yeah. Saturday was probably the worse game I have ever seen a team play. We weren't excited. We were making mistakes. We were fumbling, making interceptions, they were breaking tackles."
Once this season is over with, what can you, as players, do during the off-season to correct whatever is wrong? My wife mentioned that, maybe, the players need to get together more and talk among yourselves about what they think needs to be done to turn this program around.
"We are together as a team all the time. We talk as a team, but something is wrong. It's like me and Jerious Norwood; we aren't having the seasons that we should be having as two of the top tailbacks in the SEC. That hurts and makes us feel down. I just feel like once the season is over with and we get our new coach, we have to have better recruiting and everybody needs to work very hard on things they need to improve on."
Redshirt freshman quarterback Aries Nelson interview:
How much work do you get during a regular week of practice?
"The number 3 quarterback doesn't get that much work (in practice) but, fortunately, I get a little work with all the meetings we have. I think whenever I'm called I will be ready. Monday is my day. Monday is when Kevin (Fant) is in class. Because of that, I get all the work."
How tough is it on you not to get much work and then go into a game?
"Your body is a little out of shape. Most of the players are running around (in practice) while I'm standing around watching (the offense). My body is a little stiff (because of that). What I try to do is run around both sidelines during practice to keep my body warm. Sometimes, during practice, I get called on to do certain plays, the plays I don't understand that well. And that gets me ready for a game. A coach is not going to call a play that you haven't learned."
Do you understand what your situation is as the 3rd team quarterback? The fans want to see you play. But it seems like at MSU they always want to see the backup quarterback come in.
"Yeah, I understand. I don't think I'm in the position right now to help the team win as a starter. What the fans don't understand is I'm the reserve. If Kevin goes down, then I move up. If Kyle York goes down, I move up. But I have to be ready to play. I can't be sitting around and not have my mind right. I have to stay ready because I could be one play from a starter. I should know what Kevin knows but I don't because he has been here for four years and has been playing those years."
After being at MSU for two years, do you feel you are a much better quarterback, now?
"Yes, I can throw the ball better. And I recognize things faster than I used to. Now, when I see something, I don't think what am I supposed to do but think to myself I am supposed to do this. In the spring, I think you will see how much better of a quarterback I am."
What do you think about the young talent on this team?
"That is the best thing about us. Even though the last few years have been rough for us, we have good, young talent. Think about my class, 2002, and the class this year. Both were ranked high in the nation. The young linemen just have to drop some weight. We will be alright. This year is just a hurdle for us to jump over. We have to jump this hurdle and next year we will be alright."
What things do you think the players need to do during the off-season to turn this program around?
"Two of the things are get stronger and lose weight. Not just with the lineman but the whole team. We also have to get faster and become better athletes as the years go by."
Why do you think the team has to be stronger? Have you seen the players get pushed around by other teams?
"A lot of us get pushed around, a lot of us. Teams aren't better than us. Teams are stronger than us. We have the same amount or better talent than them, we are just not as strong."
Do you think it also has to do with just not having any good luck at all. As an example, Auburn dropped a touchdown pass in the endzone on their last drive against Ole Miss. They catch that ball and they defeat Ole Miss. Those kind of things never seem to happen to you guys.
"Yeah, we blocked the punt against Auburn and we couldn't even get the ball. When we fumble the ball, we can't get our fumbles back. When they fumble the ball, we can't get their fumbles. An interception hits us in the hands, we drop it. I don't know why it's like that because we practice hard. I don't know what it is. I can't put my hands on it."
What one characteristic do you hope the new MSU coach has?
"I hope he will be like Coach Sherrill. Coach Sherrill is a good coach. That is what got me here. It wasn't anybody else. I love Coach Sherrill."
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing email@example.com.