MSU players talked about their 31-0 loss to Ole Miss."> MSU players talked about their 31-0 loss to Ole Miss.">

MSU Players Talked about MSU's Loss to Ole Miss

<img src="http://www.genespage.com/images/01players/football/2003/mawhinneytja.jpg" align="left" width="120" height="159"> MSU players talked about their 31-0 loss to Ole Miss.

Senior middle linebacker T. J. Mawhinney

How did you guys play tonight?
"We didn't play sound defense, sound offense. We didn't play sound special teams returning the ball. We didn't play sound punting the ball. But you can't blame it all on us. They played a good game. They have a good offensive line, a good scheme and they have a heck of a quarterback, too."

What would you say to the players returning?
"Like Coach Sherrill said, learn from it, keep it in your gut. 365 days from now, you remember this when you are in Oxford or next season. We are a young team. They are going to win a lot of ball games for whoever this new coach is. He has a great group of guys to work with. I don't see why this thing can't get turned around the first game of the season next year."

You think there is enough talent here to turn it around that quickly?
"Oh yeah, definitely. It's all about the players. The coaches put you in a spot. It's just about believing in a system. We played hard but we just didn't execute the calls. That is our fault. It's not these coaches fault. It's not Coach Cooper's fault. It's not Coach Sherrill's fault. It's not Coach Watts' fault. It is our fault."

Talk about their offense, especially in the first half.
"They didn't run the ball too well between the guards, but they were playing the power play. We got out of whack a couple of times on the front. When you leave gaps; I don't care who the back is, he is going to pop 5 to 10 yards a pop. It was successful, then they came out and threw us on the hitches and obviously we were playing our corners off a little bit. Eli is a great quarterback and great quarterbacks make great checks. And that's what he did." Do you feel he was the best quarterback that you faced this year? Tulane's quarterback was pretty good, too.
"No, Eli Manning is the best. It's not his statistics. When we studied the film and even watching him tonight, he is always making the right check. He is kind of like his brother in the NFL. You watch him, he reads everything and he always puts his team in the right position. The coaches just give him a call and he makes the checks. And, like I said, he puts his offense in a good position almost every single time, every single check."

Would you consider his offensive line the best or one of the best that you have faced this year?
"No. They are good pass blockers, run blockers, but they are just an average SEC line. The thing is, when you have a quarterback like that who makes checks, he finds the weak spots and he exposes them. They dropped a few passes early, but we couldn't capitalize on it. He is a good quarterback. He makes that team click all the way around."

I know you would have liked to have winning seasons, but do you still have some fond memories?
"I've had a great time here. I have enjoyed it here since the day I have stepped on campus. I have enjoyed playing for Coach Sherrill and the rest of the coaching staff. I have enjoyed playing with the players. I have made tons of friendships and I don't regret anything. I have had a blast since I have been here."

Talk about the seniors, as a group, going over and hugging Coach Sherrill after he ran onto the field to a standing ovation from the fans during pre-game.
"We knew it was going to be emotional. But you aren't prepared for it. Coach Sherrill came out and got the ovation that he deserved. He has done a lot of great things. The next coach that comes in here has some big shoes to fill. Coach Sherrill is a great man and a great coach."


Senior quarterback Kevin Fant

Talk about their defense.
"Their defense was ready to play. On film, they have their safeties involved in the run. They just came ready to play. They were really energized and around the ball."

Talk about the pressure they were getting on you tonight.
"Sometimes, they were bringing more than we could handle. That is between me and the receivers, but I take the blame for that. I will take the blame for this loss. I should have had these guys prepared better than this for this big game."

Talk about the 4th down play where the snap was fumbled.
"I'll take the blame for that. I just fumbled the ball. There was no excuse for it. We should have had the first down. I killed the drive."

Talk about the emotions of the seniors when they went up to Coach Sherrill when he came running onto the field.
"We have played under him for five years. We got to know him and were around him every day. We are around him more than our family. It is just a special bond that you have with your coach."

Was there any frustrations, especially in the second half between you and your receivers?
"They got ahead and blitz certain times. They double covered sometimes and they didn't come. At certain times, when we had max protection they would drop back and double cover receivers and it was tough, especially in this weather."

What were the emotions of Coach Sherrill in the locker room after the game?
"He just told us that he enjoyed it and, especially the young guys, to keep this feeling in your gut and learn from it. Use it to drive you in the off-season to get better."

Talk about the season as a whole and how much of a disappointment it was.
"Losing is a disappointment in itself, but I can't complain about anything. I was blessed enough to play five years of football for Mississippi State. I loved all the guys that I played with and I loved the coaches. I wish I could play again. As long as I was playing this game, I felt like I was a little kid. Now, it is time to grown up, I guess."


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 swindoll@genespage.com.


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