*State and Tulane resumed their old rivalry in 2003. This is the fourth meeting in the current contract and the teams are scheduled to meet again in the 2007 season-opener for both, on September 1 in the Louisiana Superdome.
*Due to last year's storm effects, this is the 13th-straight game Tulane has played away from home, with one more to go before they finally, truly host an opponent on September 30.
*Tulane provided Coach Sylvester Croom with his first victory at State, with a 28-7 debut in 2004. But State is TU Coach Chris Scelfo's only SEC victim to-date, with a win in 2003 in New Orleans.
About the Green Wave: The media guide cover puts the situation well with a ‘Back Home in the ‘Dome' title. Even rivals can share sympathetic hopes for a school still, in their own term, "re-inventing" itself after the devastation of fall 2005. But if Green Wave football is back in the home town and soon to be playing in a familiar setting the team continues to struggle. After a 2-9 season, with 11 games played in 11 different venues, Chris Scelfo's team was slapped around 45-7 in their opener last weekend at Houston. Yes, the Cougars can move the ball and score, as State knows too well. Still that debut showed how much remains to be rebuilt on both sides of the ball. All that said, any team that has suffered this much for this long and come back for more is bound to have something special inside. And for all the guys who have left, Tulane has brought in a bunch of young talent to fill the voids and nine true frosh played in the '06 opener. Which means taking this bunch lightly is risky business as they would love nothing better than to blow somebody else away.
Offense: Chris Scelfo's whole career has been focused on offensive football, from his playing days as a center at Northeast Louisiana to assistant stints at his alma mater, Marshall, and Georgia, and now as ninth-year head coach at Tulane. He has put three quarterbacks in the NFL already and the fourth will get a fair shot when Lester Ricard leaves. A senior at last, the 2002 LSU signee has made his transferring work; Ricard has thrown for 3,969 career yards and 38 touchdowns in his 20 games (including 316 yards in two games against State). Tulane's offensive plans are so multiple the depth chart shows 13 possible starters depending on first-snap lineup. Up to four receivers can be fielded at a time and it's a sharp bunch of veterans led by seniors Preston Brown and Damarcus Davis. They have 116 catches and 1,519 career yards between them. Juniors Kenneth Guidroz and Fred Smith get lots of work but new face Jeremy Williams had three grabs in his debut last week at Houston. If the play calls for one senior Jerome Landry brings 260 pounds to the tight end spot. Also, don't get the idea that Tulane only knows how to throw the ball around; running back Matt Forte is there to keep defenses honest. A 224-pound junior, Forte has bulled for 1,299 career yards and should lead TU in rushing for a third-straight season. Freshman Andre Anderson is a Georgia prep star on gridiron and track both and might be activated this season. The blocking, and protection, should be improved. Michael Parenton, a 11-game starter at guard as an all-CUSA freshman, moves to center for 2006. He can because senior Donald Madlock, a 2004 regular who missed all '05 with a shoulder injury, is back at right guard. The right side is where the experience is with 35-game starter Derek Rogers. Aryan Barto is back after missing '05 also, though at 262 he's light for a left guard. Tulane needs to get lots of snaps from this group as experience depth is low.
Defense: Even considering the opponent's style, giving up 621 yards and six touchdowns was not the sort of opener Tulane's defense expected. And there is some talent in this unit to respect, both on the line and in the secondary. The latter area is where the best-known name works, with CB Israel Route not only a top cover-man but a hard hitter and tackler. He also finds a way to force turnovers with four fumbles and three picks so far. Fellow senior Jeremy Foreman holds down the other corner and makes plenty of plays himself, while Josh Lumar can do nickel duty. Junior Joe Goosby has earned the SS job back, while junior Louis Thomas is the new free safety after backup duty in '05. The pair had ten tackles in the Houston game, though most were downfield by then. State expects the safeties to stay close to the front as Tulane likes to stack things up. The need might be greater this season because all three linebackers are new starters. Senior Terrence Peterson has the strongside this year after lots of special teams duties previously, and soph James Dillard got his first start at WLB last week. Soph Jordan Ellis is the ‘veteran' with one start in November '05. He's now the middle-LB and accounted for 11 tackles at Houston. The strength literally is up-front with a still-young but well-tested line. It's an even front but State is anticipating a variety of looks here. There's size, too, with 319-pound Frank Morton at tackle. 271-pound junior DE Antonio Harris is the standout, a CUSA nominee after 5.5 sacks last fall. He's also the team co-captain. Soph DE Sean Carney made his first start a good one with eight tackles last weekend. Tulane also has nice depth at all four spots as well as a bunch of quality recruits here. If the older guys keep giving up the sort of ground as in the opener, some of the rookies might have to play.
Specialists: He's gotten lots of work in three years, and made the most of it because P (and Grenada native) Chris Beckman is an all-American nominee and Guy Award candidate with a 42.4-yard average. He hit the ball for over 46 yards on eight punts at Houston. A true frosh, Ross Threvenot, has already been handed the placekicking job after earning all-state honors in high school. Watch out for both return men, too; Route is experience running back both sorts of kicks but specializes in fielding punts where he was second in CUSA last year. Fred Smith or Ray Boudreaux can each handle kickoff returns, too.
The Series: These schools from neighboring states first met in 1901 and have played 56 times since with State holding a 29-25-2 lead. The Bulldogs only moved in front in 1991, though, as until then Tulane had held a lead largely built in the first half of the century. Both were SEC members until 1965 when the Green Wave left the league, and the series ended that year. Not until 1982 was it renewed, much to MSU's favor as the Bulldogs have won 12 of the 15 games meetings since including the last two. In fact State has taken 20 of the last 26 games played around various interruptions since 1951. State is 9-2 in Starkville against the Green Wave. Sylvester Croom is 2-0 against Tulane, including his first win as Bulldog head coach, while Chris Scelfo is 1-2 against State.
The Last Time – September 17, 2005: Their season delayed two weeks, and their home field damaged by the August 29 hurricane, Tulane finally got to debut by ‘hosting' Mississippi State over 300 miles away and on the opposite corner of their state, in Shreveport's Independence Bowl. A modest (announced) crowd of 16,421, which looked about half as large, turned out for the re-arranged meeting and saw the Bulldogs spoil the emotional evening for the ‘home' team with a 21-14 win. It wasn't a pretty contest, with no scoring and lots of penalties for both sides in the first half. State finally got something going on the first turn of the third quarter, as Jerious Norwood caught a short toss for a touchdown at 12:17. The next time the Dogs got the ball Omarr Conner directed a successful drive capped by a 18-yard touchdown toss to Eric Butler at 6:50. But the Green Wave responded with a touchdown drive of their own, as Lester Ricard found Damarcus Davis for a 11-yard scoring play. And with 9:35 left Javon Jackson tied the game 14-14 with a 18-yard touchdown dash, set up by a MSU fumble. Tulane returned the favor though as with the score tied a fumbled punt gave State the ball on the Wave 17-yard line. Norwood covered all that ground on the first play at 7:44, and the Dog defense made the margin hold. Derek Pegues knocked down a heave into the end zone on the last play of the game. Tulane out-gained State 293-225 and had a 13-minute edge in possession time. Norwood ran for 99 yards and Conner was 13-of-26 for 108 yards and two scores. Ricard was 26-of-47 for 179 yards, with Preston Brown catching nine balls for 117 yards.
Did You Know? Chris Scelfo played for MSU OL coach J.B. Grimes at Northeast Louisiana as a 1980 freshman, and the two worked on the NELa staff in 1986-87.
Of the 56 games played by State and Tulane, 40 have been contested in New Orleans and five at neutral sites including last year's meeting in Shreveport.
*Mississippi State has five roster players hailing from Louisiana, including New Orleans native HB Derek Ambrose. Others are HB Christian Ducre (Mandeville), KS Keith Andrews (Bastrop), TE Jeremy Jones (Harvey), and HB Justin Williams (Tallulah). Only two Mississippians are on the Tulane roster, LB Jordan Ellis (Pass Christian) and P Chris Beckman.
*Ducre has the distinction of being the only player in the game to have worn both uniforms. He signed with Tulane out of Fontainebleau HS, redshirted, and transferred out this summer when his specific major was dropped by the recovering university. He came to State, was cleared for participation in late August, and will dress out this Saturday against his former school.
MSU Rookie Report: Seventeen Bulldogs have made their college-game debuts this season, including five true freshmen. HB Anthony Dixon, ST Anthony Johnson, and ST Marcus Washington all played in the South Carolina game, and the next week HB Arnil Stallworth and S Anthony Summers joined them. Redshirted 2005 freshmen who have played so far this season are: QB Tray Rutland, OT Craig Jenkins, DT Quinton Wesley, ST Jarvis Kyles, CB Adron Chambers, ST Christian Ducre, and ST Tay Bowser.
*Other first-year players are juco transfers WR Tony Burks, OT J.D. Hamilton, and LB Tim Bailey; soph HB Justin Williams, and soph WR Jamayel Smith.
*True freshmen yet to play are: OG J.C. Brigone, WR Alex Carpenter, DL Brandon Cooper, DS Aaron Feld, TE Chris Herrera, LB Jamon Hughes, TE Brandon Henderson, DT Kyle Love, OT Mark Melichar, WR Keith Mills, DT Reggie Odom, and DE Rodney Prince.
Bulldog Player Notes: Senior linebacker Quinton Culberson won the team title for tackles last season with 78 in eleven games, tenth-best in the SEC. He now has 193 for his four varsity seasons, after a ten-tackle day against Auburn. If was his fifth double-digit stop game.
*Senior safety Jeramie Johnson is next on the current career list with 161 tackles. But Johnson has seven career interceptions and needs two more to move into the MSU top-ten chart.
*Senior DE Michael Heard is the team sack-leader with 6.5 in 30 career games.
*Senior DT Deljuan Robinson had his best career game last Saturday with seven tackles against Auburn. His previous personal best was a six-tackle day against Mississippi. In two 2006 games Robinson has already matched the previous three years' worth of tackles-for-losses.
*Freshman HB Anthony Dixon was not expected to play in the Auburn game, but ended up with 69 yards on 15 carries. Along with his 64 yards in the S.C. game, Dixon is now averaging 66.5 for his first two college contests and ranks fourth-best in the SEC this week.
*Junior TE Eric Butler's season is off to a slow start. He had one catch in the S.C. game, for 20 yards, and none last week. In his first two years Butler had 29 grabs in 21 games, with seven touchowns to set both a season (four) and career record for his MSU position.
*Former walk-on WR Lance Long was second in SEC receiving after one game with five catches, but was shut out by Auburn.
*P Blake McAdams began his sophomore year well with a 41.6-yard average against South Carolina, placing three punts inside the 20-yard line. Last week he was good for under 39 yards on eight punts. State's two opponents averaged over 48 yards per punt. McAdams averaged 41.9 yards as a freshman and ranked 33rd in the NCAA stats. His career average to-date still ranks fifth-best in MSU history, for punters with 75 or more kicks.
*PK Adam Carlson missed his only field goal attempt in the S.C. game, from 38 yards, and had a 37-yard try against Auburn blocked. That latter counts against his career record, which now stands at 2-of-6.
*Carlson was 7-of-7 on PATs as a freshman. Senior Keith Andrews, currently serving only on kickoff duty, was 32-of-32 on PATs in two seasons and needed five more to tie the school record.
*Four Bulldogs have now played in 36 games: FB Bryson Davis, CB David Heard, S Jeramie Johnson, and DS Russell Cook. Heard and Johnson are tied with 21 starts, though as a snapper Cook is unfairly excluded in this category. But the most starts by a current player is the 26 for MLB Quinton Culberson, in 32 games.
*NG Andrew Powell had his team-leading string of consecutive starts stopped last week, at 22, when Antonio Johnson took his place for the Auburn game. This gives OG Brian Anderson the team-lead now at 20 games. Anderson has also started four different positions in his career, every line slot except center…where he played one game as a backup in 2004. He also played as an second-TE as a 2003 true freshman.
*There are 43 players on the current roster who have started at least one MSU game since 2004, including specialists.