Dixon Preparing for Success

Although disappointed with a loss in his first collegiate game, not to mention being shut out on the scoreboard, Mississippi State's Anthony Dixon did have reason for some optimism. The Bulldog true freshman tailback churned out 64 yards in his rookie debut in maroon and white. And just a couple of days later, Dixon was named the starting tailback for the Auburn game.

Then came Tuesday's practice, which dampened Dixon's spirit slightly when a broken pinky finger on his left hand left serious doubt about his availability against Auburn.

But as soon as Dixon was mentally over his setback, his physical aspects also came around.

"It hurt me bad because I thought I was going to start the (Auburn) game," said Anthony Dixon. "It did do something to me and bother me. One of the defensive players tried to strip me of the ball and caught my finger with their hand. But then they told me I may have surgery quick and be able to play. It was feeling good on (Friday) so I decided to give it a go.

"It was hurting all game but it wasn't hurting me that bad. I told Coach I wanted to give it a go and told him I could play and he trusted me enough to hold on to the ball."

And hold on to the ball he did. Dixon rushed for 69 yards, tying Auburn's All-SEC tailback Kenny Irons for top rushing honors in the game.

Dixon admitted his broken finger did play into his mind early on but it quickly faded away.

"I kept it in my right hand so it wasn't hard to hold it," said Dixon. "I thought about (the finger) the first couple of running plays. Then it came normal and I held my arm everytime I fell. So I didn't think about it anymore after that.

"I had a hard pad all around my (left) hand. It protected it alright and did a good job. I really didn't get hit on it and that did surprise me because I was expecting to get hit a lot on (the broken finger)."

Dixon didn't take too much ribbing from his teammates about the broken finger, mainly because he wasn't about to let a broken pinky finger keep him off the field.

Dixon noted that had he not played with the injury that all would have been forgiven considering his position on the football field.

"They really didn't crack on me to much," said Dixon. "At least not from a running back standpoint. Now if I was on defense, they would have been cracking down on me. But they know being a running back, I need my hands. They probably wouldn't have sweated me too much if I didn't play but I told them I was still going to be out there on Saturday."

Although Dixon's performances have surprised a few, Dixon was confident he was going to get his chances as a true freshman.

He recalled the first day he stepped on campus, and when head coach Sylvester Croom told the 6-foot-1 and 230-pound Dixon that he would have an opportunity to show his stuff on Saturdays.

But he didn't just sit back and enjoy the compliments and encouragement from the Bulldog coaching staff.

He prepared like he had never before.

Sure he was one of the nation's top recruits a year ago, and rushed for 2,683 yards with an amazing 8.8 yard-per-carry average as a senior at Terry High School.

But he had to learn a whole new system, and adapt to the level of talent and speed now on opposing defenses.

So he followed the same routine every night, which always ended with his nose in the offensive playbook.

"When I first got here, Coach Croom told me he was looking for me to play some this year," said Dixon. "I just know from some seniors talking to me, they told me I had to grow up quick. They told me the SEC was no joke.

"So I knew I had to come in kicking. I just sat in my room every night just studying my playbook and knowing what I'm going to have to do when I get on the field, knowing I can't let the team down. I wanted to know my stuff so I wouldn't let everybody down."

Although he talks like a mature freshman, Dixon fully understands his role on the football team. For now, he will leave the leading and directing to the upperclassmen.

"I really haven't taken on a leadership role," said Dixon. "I am just doing my job and just trying to help out the team like I told everyone from Day 1 and the day I got here. I'm just trying to help the offense out and trying to help put points up on the board. I am really not trying to take a leadership role, just trying not to let the team down and show them I can play well out there."

Which is what he's continuing to do, and he hopes his improvements and those of his offensive teammates starts to show on the scoreboard.

The Bulldogs have opened the season with no points after two games, getting blanked by South Carolina and Auburn.

But Dixon has seen the progress on the practice field and strongly believes it's only a matter of time before that production carries over to the games.

"I really didn't have a week of practice because I broke the pinky finger," said Dixon. "I was out there one day for practice and we had a good day of practice then. When I came back and watched, they had good days of driving the ball down the field on our first-team defense.

"If we can do that against our defense, then we should be able to do that against any defense we go up against. We are just not putting it all together when we get out there. That will change."

Which Dixon is counting on in State's next outing Saturday against their first non-conference foe of the season in Tulane.

He also has faith in redshirt freshman quarterback Tray Rutland, who is also tasting college football for the first time in his young career.

"He's a freshman just like I am," said Dixon of Rutland. "I guess he's got to go through these little bumps right now."

And with time, Dixon believes himself, Rutland and the other members of the Bulldog offense will get the job done.

"The confidence level is still there. Once we get that win with our confidence now, I believe we will go higher. I believe we are going to get the games we need to get to a bowl."

Paul Jones is a writer for the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website. Paul, also a sports writer for the Columbus Commercial Dispatch, can be reached by email at pjones@cdispatch.com.

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