Murray State Coach Joe Pannunzio

Murray State head coach Joe Pannunzio talked about the Mississippi State game.

Opening Comments:

"The depth factor wore us down. I am obviously impressed with their quarterback (Omarr Conner) and their running back (Jerious Norwood). To me, Jerious Norwood is as good a running back as there is in the SEC. You could see improvement in Mississippi State. I look for good things for them. As for my team, we have to improve from this point on. I think we have an exciting quarterback (Ken Topps) who can make some plays. We, obviously, can't give up the big plays that we did on defense (tonight) and be successful. We will be a lot different team, as they will, a month from now. I just hope that it goes in the right direction."

Be a little more specific about what (former Amory HS and Mississippi State quarterback) Ken Topps means to your team.
"Ken is going to be good. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out. But we have to keep him healthy. He made some plays that you don't draw up. And he did it against a very speedy SEC defense. I think one of the strengths of Mississippi State is that they have speed on defense. And he was able to exploit that at times. He is going to be a big player for us. One of the key plays in the game was our backup quarterback getting hurt. Right now, the initial report is that it is just a sprain and that he will be back in two weeks. The way Ken played, he will take some hits and we will lose him for a game or two, so we have to have a backup quarterback."

What were some things you saw about your team tonight?
"As the game went on, we got a little tired. But that's I-AA versus I-A."

What improvements did you see from the Mississippi State defense from their defense last year?
"They are a lot more at ease with what they are doing. They brought some blitzes that we hadn't seen before. You could see that they are much more confident in what they are doing. And I think that is one of the things we did when we were with Ole Miss (with Tommy Tuberville) and what Tommy Tuberville is doing at Auburn. Things don't change. It's the same system year after year, but now your freshmen get into it and you can see the same things happening here (at Mississippi State)."

How much did it hurt you not having running back Nick Turner playing for you tonight?
"We don't worry about that. That's the cards we were dealt with."

Other than Omarr Conner, who were some other Mississippi State offensive players that impressed you?
"Jerious Norwood and Tee Milons. Tee made a nice play and is obviously an SEC receiver. In our league, maybe we could get away with our corners matching receivers one on one. But that was a problem for us all game long. We were afraid to be matched up one on one. Because of that, we couldn't load up the tackle box. That was a problem all night long."

Even though you didn't come away with a victory, how did it help your team?
"I guess the best way it helped us is it made some money for us. To be honest with you, we needed a game to find out where we are and find out who can play and who can't play."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the sports network. You can contact him by email at

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