The Egg Bowl was a completely new experience for you when you first got here. What does it mean to you now that you have seen four Egg Bowls, either as a redshirt freshman or as an active participant?
"The Egg Bowl wasn't new to me because I have watched it every year since I have known what football is. I remember how they used to fight. Every time I watched it, I was like these two teams from Mississippi are going to fight tonight. My brother (who played for Ohio State) and I would watch it because he would play Michigan the weekend before Ole Miss and Mississippi State. He would say, 'you know, they are going to fight tonight'. We would always sit down and watch it. If they didn't fight, we would get mad. It always seemed like the people hated each other. I really didn't know the particulars of it until I got here. Then, it was like wow, they really do hate each other."
When did you noticed that they really did hate each other, before the game itself or sometime during the season?
"In warmups is when you really feel it, especially when you are (in Oxford). When you are (in Starkville), the (State) people really like us. But when you are there, there is no worse environment to play in."
What specifically do they do?
"You can just feel it in the air. It is a rivalry. And it is different than any other rivalry that I have been around. Families separate for this one. I have never seen anything like that before. I grew up around the Ohio State and Michigan rivalry, and it is nothing like this. It is not as passionate as this one is."
Speaking of playing in Oxford, have you guys ever been told to keep your helmets on and watch out for whiskey bottles?
"Yes, we have been told to keep our helmets on and watch out. My first year here when I got redshirted, I almost got into a fight going to the game. I had on my (MSU) sweat suit and we were sitting in the crowd and a guy is hitting me in the back of the head with a Rebel flag. I'm from Dayton, Ohio; I've never experienced anything like that. I'm like asking him to quit."
I'm not so sure you should have worn your sweat suit to a game in Oxford?
"It was here!"
"Yeah. That was the year that Westerfield kicked the field goal to win 23 to 20."
Did you turn to the guy and say something to him?
"Yeah, I said something to him. That was when I realized that this is really something serious. I remember the first time my parents came to the Egg Bowl was last year. I told them they needed to come and experience us playing at Ole Miss, because I won't get to play there again. Even they said it is different, it is a different kind of atmosphere. It's not scary or dangerous but it's just that they don't like you. They hate you. If killing you was legal for one day, I don't believe any Bulldog would walk out of Oxford alive. But I think it is the same way here. And that is what makes it so good. And that is why records don't matter and why it is the game. It doesn't matter which team is worse."
Because MSU has been beaten so badly the last few games, are you guys really able to throw out the previous games?
"You have to forget what has happened in your past. If you got blown out last week, that has nothing to do with this week. They know that, too. They have to prepare to play us, just like we have to prepare to play them. This is Ole Miss. Everybody is going to be jacked up."
So, I guess you are telling the fans to forget about the previous games this season?
"I don't have to tell the fans that. They are going to forget about it, anyway. Even if we don't win a game all year, there are going to be 50,000 Bulldog fans there wanting us to beat Ole Miss because it is Ole Miss. It would be the same way if we were playing in Oxford. It is a great football state and I'm glad I have had a chance to experience (the rivalry)."
You mentioned the fans. How important would it be to the team if you had a massive turnout at the pre-game walk-through?
"I think it would help tremendously. We are going to need all the help that we can get. We are playing a great football team. They have a great football team and have had a great year. It's the truth. They have done a good job. They play hard. They are discipline. But, we have to go out there and beat them."
On a more personal level, like Coach Sherrill, this is your last game at State. Do you think about that?
"I think about it a lot. It is hard to be around my teammates for the last time. It is hard to imagine that five years of my life have gone by. When I first got here, I was a 17, now I'm 22. It is over just like that. Everybody is so used to seeing Coach Sherrill on the sidelines and that is going to change now. It's hard, it's hard. But we are going to get through it and play hard. It has been a great experience."
Reflect back on playing at State and playing alongside future NFL players such as Donald Lee and Fred Smoot.
"You never know if you are going to play with NFL stars until they become that. That is what happened with Donald Lee and Fred Smoot. Reflecting back, it was a great experience. I saw places that I would have never gotten to see. I would have never got to go to BYU. I would have never played in Tennessee, played against Florida, had a chance to beat Florida. And experience the Egg Bowl firsthand. You can watch it on tv and say it is a rivalry just like anybody else's, but really it's not. There is not a rivalry like Ole Miss and Mississippi. To experience it was a privilege. I didn't know it was going to be like that. I guess that is just my arrogance because of where I came from and thinking that rivalry (Ohio State - Michigan) is bigger than any you ever imagined. This rivalry is very, very different. I really don't know what it is. All I do know is it is very, very intense. I do know that you are not going to find an Ole Miss fan and a Mississippi State fan who will sit down and have a positive conversation. It may start out ok, but it is not going to end up good."
What is the rivalry like between the players?
"There is a mutual respect between the players. They have great players, just like we do. We have great players but we just had different fortunes. I think people think the talent level on different college teams is so different, but it's not. That's why, when you see a Northern Illinois beat an Alabama, you shouldn't be surprised because talent-wise everybody is the same. It's just that some Saturdays or whatever day you play on, one team is better than the other."
Would you say confidence is also a big part in how a team plays? Ole Miss seems to be playing with so much confidence, just like MSU did a few years ago.
"Yeah, you were here. It was a totally different environment than the environment now. But it is also partly due to luck and, so far, the luck just hasn't come our way these last few years. It'll change. You'll see a change."
Freshman OL Donovan Davis
You have grown up in Mississippi. This is your first Egg Bowl. Talk about what it means to you.
"I am looking forward to it, although there is a lot of anticipation, a lot of anxiety. I just want to get it rolling Thursday so, whoever comes in here after Coach Sherrill, we will give him a good start for next spring."
This is Coach Sherrill's last game, last Egg Bowl, does that cause the game to take on special meaning to the players?
"It is extremely special and important to us, not only just for Coach Sherrill but for the guys who are injured, Ray Ray (Bivines) and Quinton (Culberson) and the other guys. We just want to win to get a fresh start, a breath of fresh air for the new coach coming in."
Are you guys excited thinking about the new coach coming in?
"Well, it is kind of like Christmas. You want it to get here and you are excited about it, but no matter how hard you try, you can't rush it. It is going to get here, but we just have to go out and get it done on Thursday, so, whoever it is, can come in with a good impression of us."
Have you thought about what you are going to say to the new coach when you meet him for the first time?
"Not really. I'm just going to introduce myself and take it from there."
Sophomore DB Darren Williams
Is it true you can throw out the records for this game?
"Yes, we throw it out because there is nothing you can do to change it, so we can't worry about it. We just need to go in Thursday, play hard and give it all we have and see what happens."
Are the players more intense in practice this week?
"Everybody looks focused. I can see it in their eyes. Everybody is trying to get everything right."
Have you gotten tired of hearing the song "Eli's Coming" in practice this week?
"Yeah, we have heard that too much, all day in practice, that's all they have played. But I know the DBs are looking forward to (playing against Eli). It is good to play against a Heisman Trophy candidate. You can see where you are."
Have the players thought about playing this game for Coach Sherrill since it's his last game?
"Yeah, but most of all, we need to win it for us. Coach Sherrill will be happy with that. We need a win for ourselves. Coach Sherrill will share the victory with us. And it will be a great way to send him out."
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.