Mississippi State head football coach Jackie Sherrill talks about the upcoming game with Alabama.


Talking about Alabama:
"Alabama has a lot of players who have played well against us the last four years. This game has been very competitive.

"They have built their entire offense around Tyler Watts. He has done an outstanding job. They are averaging 214 yards a game (rushing). They run the option very well which puts pressure on the defenses. As a defense, you have to be very disciplined. The secondary will make most of the tackles because you have to stack the line of scrimmage. It's very important that the secondary does make the tackles. Their offense doesn't turn the football over. They have turned it over 10 times this season. they lead the league in red zone scoring (94%). They lead the league in rushing and are number five in scoring and number five in total offense.

"Defensively, they are fifth in the league and second in the league in the red zone. Their front people are fast and their linebackers have secondary type speed. It is very difficult to go east and west against them. The teams that have defeated them are teams that can go north and south.

"Even though the longest that their kicker has kicked a field goal is thirty-five yards, they lead the league in field goal percentage. They have a lot of team speed in their kicking game."

On establishing the run against Alabama:
"You are going to have to run the ball against them. Tennessee at times ran the ball well against them and at times didn't. They mixed it up very well. Alabama has very good down linemen who are big, strong and fast. There are some seniors that they aren't playing right now, Reggie Myles, Ray, and Moorehead. I don't know if that is because they wanted to play younger people or they haven't been playing as well as the younger people. I can't answer that."

How is your injury situation?
"We had nine guys that didn't practice yesterday. Some of the nine will be out there today but they won't be able to go through everything that they normally do. Unfortunately, four of the five starting offensive linemen are not practicing. Of course, Dicenzo is not out there. Wayne (Madkin) also won't be out there. He still is being bothered by a sore shoulder and arm that he suffered earlier in the season. We have two receivers, Ray Ray Bivines and Terrell Grindle, that didn't practice. Hopefully Ray Ray will be back on the practice field Wednesday. He may be able to do a little today. Terrell will practice today but we are going to have to limit his practice time. He has tendinitis in his knee. He is ok but the longer he practices, the more chance that his knee will swell. Defensively, we are in better shape than we are offensively."

Talk about T. J. Mawhinny.
"T. J. played well. He got hurt early in the season and is coming back now. We had quite a few guys who played well and played through their injuries."

Talk about the emotions of the team.
"I think it goes all the way back to the South Carolina game. We had a lot of emotions after the Memphis game that carried over. Then we are off again. We as coaches didn't do a good job of keeping the players' intensity level up. When we couldn't make the plays to win games, a lot of players had a difficult time handling that."

How difficult is it to defend the option?
"It is very difficult to defend if they run it well and they have been. This is their ninth game and their execution has been getting better each week. Tyler Watts is a tough runner. He reminds me of Rutledge when Rutledge was at Alabama. He won't out-run you, although he has good speed. He has the ability to make you miss him. He has always done a good job of forcing you to make the decision."

Is it difficult to go from preparing for a (passing) team like Kentucky to preparing for a (running) team like Alabama?
"This is the first game that our secondary will have to stop the run. In the past, your secondary was playing man. Now, they will have to give run support and play blockers off. There are a lot of situations that they haven't been placed in. Against the option, your inside people have to give you a lot of help. They have to shorten the alleys quickly."

The receivers caught the ball well during last week's game. Was there anything special that they did in practice last week that may have caused that?
"They worked very hard in practice. They caught the ball well in practice. Sometimes it is a combination of two things, throwing catchable balls and catching them. Justin made a couple of very good catches. The touchdown in the end zone where he went up and got the ball was a big play. Justin made a very good adjustment on the ball thrown by Kevin."

Talk about playing at Alabama this year and having to play there back to back.
"We played there two years ago. It was extremely loud. They and Auburn both use the Jumbotron. That is a game management decision. I kind of chuckle that they go through the stands taking the tiniest cowbell away from people but they turn their Jumbotron up. It doesn't make sense.

"You have to (play at Alabama back to back). Other teams have to do it also. You have to do that according to the television package and to help you have the X number of home games. Right now, if you aren't willing to pay between $700,000 to $1,000,000 for a non-conference opponent to come and play you, it is difficult to get the right number of home games without doing something like that."

Talk about the remaining schedule.
"We get two on the road and two at home. Those last two at home will allow us to set attendance records. That will help the program."

You have a very good tackling secondary. That has to help against an option team.
"They are going to get their shot. They are going to have to make more tackles than the linebackers. That is why it is so valuable to get rid of a blocker and close down the alley quickly."

After having watched the game film of the Kentucky game, what was your impression of how Kevin Fant played?
"He made that one bad throw but he made all the right calls and was very sharp at that. He was able to move the ball and get it into the end zone."

Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page (http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com), the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. You can contact him by email at swindoll@genespage.com.

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