Well, MSU's first game is now in the record books. Of course the score, 36-13 in Oregon's favor, wasn't anything like I expected. But then, I also didn't expect MSU to be playing without their starting quarterback Kevin Fant.
As you all know my now, Fant was suspended by the NCAA for one game for a secondary violation that basically was ruled an extra benefit. I won't go into the details, but the gist of it is a friend held some tires with his credit card for Fant until Fant's mother could pay the Pascagoula tire dealer for them later in the day. MSU found out about the incident about a week ago and self-reported it. While the SEC felt that it was so minor that it didn't warrant a penalty, the NCAA felt otherwise and handed down the one-game suspension. The incident, with the suspension now complete, is now considered a dead issue by all concerned.
Now, back to the game. The Oregon Ducks, behind the play of quarterback Jason Fife, a bigger, faster and stronger-armed version of last year's quarterback, Joey Harrington, came out in the first half and scored on a 80-yard, 15-play drive the first drive of the game. Fife exhibited excellent composure during the drive, which was helped along by three MSU penalties, including a third down penalty after the MSU defense had stopped Oregon.
MSU, just as they did on defense, hurt themselves on their first drive with an offensive pass interference call on their first play. After digging themselves into a 1st and 24-yard hole, the Dogs gained 14 of the necessary 24 yards before they had to punt.
Once again MSU shot themselves in the foot with a penalty. This time the MSU special teams earned the penalty. After the Bulldogs' Jared Cook kicked a 50-yard punt, the MSU special teams allowed a 25-yard return to the UO 47-yard line. However, 15 yards were tacked on because the MSU punt team was called for a personal foul which put Oregon at MSU's 38-yard line. On the ensuing drive, MSU's defense came within inches of stopping the Ducks on a 3rd and 1. On the next play, Fife, while getting hit by a Bulldog defender, threw a pass that was caught by Willis who outjumped the Bulldog defender for the ball. Oregon then threw a touchdown pass on the next play.
Oregon now led 14-0.
The Ducks would score another TD and two field goals before MSU would dent the scoreboard. At the half, Oregon led MSU 27-7.
The second half, the Bulldog defense performed much better, allowing the Ducks 9 points and 131 yards. In the meantime, the Bulldog offense scored a touchdown and generated 132 yards.
The final score: Ducks 36, Bulldogs 13.
Although the score doesn't indicate it, the Bulldogs had some bright spots during the game.
The play of redshirt freshmen quarterback Kyle York was better than you would expect from someone who was told just 48 hours earlier that he would start against one of the toughest defenses in the nation on their home field. Kyle threw 37 passes and completed 18 for 192 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. Although at times he and his receivers appeared to be out of sync, his play had to be considered good due to the circumstances. MSU fans, including this writer, can now feel much more secure about the quarterback depth.
The punting of sophomore punter Jared Cook was also another highlight. Jared punted 8 times for a 42.8 average. Coach Sherrill continued to say during the pre-season that Jared was much more consistently than last season. That rang true this past Saturday.
On defense, cornerback Korey Banks and DOG safety Richard Ball performed well in the secondary. Ball, had 5 tackles, 1 pass deflected and at least one pass that he knocked out of the hands of the receiver after he caught the ball. Defensive coordinator Joe Lee Dunn told me after the game he was very impressed with Ball's play. Although I don't know if Ball covered Oregon's outstanding receiver Keenan Howry, I'm guessing that Ball was moved to the DOG safety position for the sole purpose of giving MSU a speed guy to go up against the speedy Howry. If that is the case, then it worked to perfection because Howry caught 2 passes for 2 yards. As for the play of Banks, he had 5 tackles, one for a loss, and 2 pass deflections. Just to show you how much respect Oregon seemingly had for Banks, they rarely threw to Banks' side of the field. Almost all of his tackles were from tackling running backs.
On the defensive line, backup tackle Lennie Day had the best game of his career, recording 9 total tackles, including 1.5 tackles for losses and 1 quarterback hurry. At least three of his tackles came against the Ducks' outstanding runner, Onterrio Smith. Day held the elusive Smith to a net gain of 1 yard during those three plays.
MSU's two insider linebackers, Mario Haggan and T.J. Mawhinny, combined for 27 tackles, with Haggan recording 17 of those. Mario, if he can continue with the play he exhibited last Saturday, will be a strong contender for All-SEC and All-American honors.
Of the 66 players who performed for MSU during the game, 14 were either redshirt or true freshmen. Included in that number were quarterback Kyle York, running backs Jerious Norwood and Nick Turner, fullback Willie Evans, wide receivers Tee Milons and Brandon Wright, and offensive linemen Chris McNeil and Richard Burch, DOG safeties Rico Bennett and Darren Williams played as did cornerbacks Derrick Crockett and Kevin Dockery and linebackers Marvin Byrdsong and Kenny Kern.
The two freshmen who had the biggest impact, with the exception of starter Kyle York, were Wright and Turner. Brandon Wright caught 2 passes for 24 yards and 1 touchdown, while Nick Turner caught 1 pass for 14 yards, 1 punt for 6 yards and 2 kickoffs back for 56 yards.
Obviously, with so many youngsters on the travel squad, this team is a work on progress. Because of that, it will get better and better as the season progresses. While I, like so many other Bulldog fans are disappointed that we last Saturday, I am very excited to see how much this team progresses from week to week.
The Autzen Stadium atmosphere....
The atmosphere at Autzen Stadium reminded me of what it is like at MSU, although the music wasn't as good. At times the crowd would get very loud, especially when the MSU offense was on the field. However, as far as I can remember, it never bothered the MSU offense, since they never committed any of the penalties that usually are associated with loud crowd. I asked a couple of the players about the crowd noise. They told me, while it was loud, it wasn't loud enough to disrupt the play.
Their artificial noisemakers, the Duck Lips, were never a factor. In fact, I don't even remember many Oregon fans blowing them.
Overall, while places in the SEC such as LSU, Florida and Tennessee are much louder and much more intimidating, Oregon's noise level is very loud at times.
One final note about their atmosphere: Their school doesn't start until later in the month, so quite a few of the students were probably not at the game. Several Ducks fans said that may have been a factor in the noise level.
Not time to get down on this team...
As I stated above, this team is a work in progress. While there are quite a few folks on my message board that seem to be prone to seeing their glass half empty, there is no reason to get concerned about this team at this point.
Several points to ponder.
MSU went to Oregon without Kevin Fant, a quarterback that played better than any other QB in the SEC with the exception of Florida's Rex Grossman the last few games of last season. There is no telling how much that affected the play and attitude of this team.
MSU's coaching staff have made the commitment to play a lot of freshmen this season. During last Saturday's game, they played 14. That is 22% of all the players that played in the game. That will be invaluable for the youngsters and team as the season progresses.
The MSU offensive line had trouble opening any kind of holes for running plays. That was disappointing, but not unexpected, especially when you consider that for the past two years no one has been able to run against Oregon. The positive that I did see from this offensive line was its ability to protect the quarterback. Although they allowed 2 sacks, QB York usually had ample time to throw the ball. With this offensive line playing together as a unit for the first time Saturday, I see it as only getting better and better as the season progresses. I also like the fact that it seems to have some quality depth with the likes of sophomore Will Rogers and freshmen Chris McNeil and Richard Burch. I still see this position as being one of the strong points of this team by the end of the season.
With a week off this coming Saturday, the coaches and players can work on the above positives and correct the negatives.
TheInsiders/Gene's Page travel package...
Approximately 35 folks took advantage of the Gene's Page Oregon travel package. Just as TheInsiders Travel Agency said, the Best Western was located within walking distance of the stadium. With Tim from TheInsiders Travel Agency in the lobby of the hotel waiting on the folks to come in, everything seemed to run like clockwork at the hotel. The Friday night party at the Electric Oregon restaurant appeared to be just as successful. The food was great and the fellowship was even better. The Saturday afternoon tailgate party also appeared to appreciated by all. In fact, it was so great other Bulldog fans joined in. The more the merrier. About the only thing that was a disappointment was the location of the tickets. They were on the northeast side of the stadium while the rest of the Bulldog fans were on the northwest side of the stadium. However, despite that, TheInsiders' travel package appeared to be a great success for the folks who purchased it.
Having trouble receiving responses when you send out a message board private message? Then, you probably haven't set it up so you can receive responses.
On the front of the message board is a link called MY CONTROL CENTER. Click on it. When the next page appears, click on EDIT PREFERENCES. That takes you to another page. On that page you will see OTHER OPTIONS on the right-hand side. In that section is a small box on the left-hand side of ACCEPT PRIVATE MESSAGES. If there is no check mark in it, then you have not set up your private message feature. Check mark it and you are good to go and will be able to receive private messages.
UPCOMING CALENDAR EVENTS
Mary Ann has added all of the spring and summer Bulldog Celebration and other MSU events to the calendar that she has been notified of. If you don't see yours on the calendar, please email her at the email address listed below.
If you have a MSU related event coming up and you don't see it listed on the Gene's Page calendar, email Mary Ann your information and she will post it on the calendar. We purchased the calendar for your use, so please don't hesitate using it. Mary Ann's new email address is email@example.com.
Well, that wraps up this week's edition of the Monday Morning Bulldog Coffee Break.
Have a great Bulldog week!
Archived Monday Morning Coffee Break Articles:
August 26, 2002
August 12, 2002
July 22, 2002
July 8, 2002
June 24, 2002
June 17, 2002
June 10, 2002
June 3, 2002
May 27, 2002
May 20, 2002
May 13, 2002
May 6, 2002
April 29, 2002
April 22, 2002
April 8, 2002
April 1, 2002
March 25, 2002
March 4, 2002
Feb. 25, 2002
Feb. 18, 2002
Feb. 11, 2002
Feb. 4, 2002
Jan. 28, 2002
Jan. 21, 2002
Jan. 14, 2002
Jan. 7, 2002
Dec. 31, 2001
Dec. 24, 2001
Dec. 17, 2001
Dec. 10, 2001
Dec. 3, 2001
Nov. 26, 2001
Nov. 19, 2001
Nov. 12, 2001
Nov. 7, 2001
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.