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Football, Baseball, Technical Info and a Gene's Page Calendar Update.
As was expected by most folks, Mississippi State is 1-1 after the first two games. A few observations.
After having to miss the first game of the season due to an NCAA-mandated, one-game suspension, junior quarterback Kevin Fant continued where he left off at the end of last season. Throwing the ball 26 times, he completed 15 for 336 yards and 3 touchdowns with 0 interceptions. Including the last two games of last season, Fant has now completed 49 of 75 passes (.653) for 945 yards and 7 touchdowns. He has thrown only 1 interception during the same timespan. Although he has not gotten as much media attention as a couple of other highly touted SEC quarterbacks, Fant is slowly proving he is as good as any quarterback in the SEC. And unlike so many quarterbacks whose statistics are padded by runs after the catch, Fant is proving he can throw the long ball with the best of them.
Little-used up until this season, defensive tackle Lennie Day, all 260 pounds of him, has really stood out on the defensive front. As a backup, Day has recorded 15 tackles (2.5 for losses) in the first two games. That places Day tied for third on the tackle chart, trailing only Haggan (30 tackles) and T.J. Mawhinny (19).
After recording 23 sacks last season, MSU's defense has not recorded a sack during the first two games. While at first glance that leads you to believe that the defensive tackles and noseguard are not as effective as last season, looking back at last year's stats, you see otherwise. During 2001, those same positions recorded 4 of the 23 sacks. Most of last year's sacks were due to blitzing, something MSU hasn't done as often this season....so far.
Where has the running game gone? With a new, and inexperienced offensive line, MSU's running game hasn't been very effective this season. With just two offensive line starters back (center Blake Jones and sometime starter Donald Tucker) from last season and playing quite a few freshman early in the season (Chris McNeil, Richard Burch and Johnny Wadley), MSU is showing the effects by only averaging 103 yards rushing per game. Hopefully, as the season progresses, and the offensive line gets used to playing with each other, that stat will improve. The positive about this new line is they appear to be good at pass blocking, as evidenced by the fact that they have only allowed 3 sacks this season. Last season, MSU's offensive line allowed 24 sacks in 11 games.
Another bright spot has been the punting of sophomore Jared Cook and kicking of juco transfer Brent Smith. After averaging 40.7 punts per game last season, Cook is averaging 44.3 this season, which places him 9th in the nation and 1st in the SEC. Smith, who has kicked MSU's only field goal this season, has shown a very strong leg, kicking about half of his kickoffs deep into the endzone.
A third bright spot has been the play of Richard Ball at DOG safety. After playing backup cornerback in limited action last season, Ball was moved to DOG safety about a week and a half prior to the first game of the season. Playing on the same side as cornerback Korey Banks, Ball and Banks are fast becoming a twosome that is completely shutting down their side of the field. Combined, they have batted down 3 passes - very few passes have been thrown their way - while recording 13 tackles. The emergence of sophomore, cornerback Slovakia Griffith has also been a positive. After taking over for the injured Demetric Wright, Griffith has recorded 12 tackles and 2 pass deflections in one and a half games.
After watching two complete baseball scrimmages and most of another one, here are a few observations. (The stats are based only on scrimmages that I have seen in person.)
The pitching has a chance to be very, very good and very, very deep. Pitchers who stood out during the scrimmages included Jonathan Papelbon (gave up runs but showed great velocity), Robby Goodson (gave up runs but threw in low 90's), Jacob Blakeney, Jeff Lacher, Collins Hughes, Joey Collums, Todd Nicholas (redshirt sophomore), Jamie Gant, Jacob Ociesa, and Brad Corley (freshman), Brett Cleveland (redshirt freshman) and Alan Johnson (sophomore, transfer). Veteran ace Paul Maholm has not pitched yet due to minor surgery on his left knee during the offseason.
So far, I have personally seen seven pitchers hit at least 90 miles per hour with their fastball, with three of them (Goodson, Papelbon and Nicholas) hitting 90 or higher consistently. True freshman Brad Corley also hit 90 or higher the majority of the time.
The biggest pitching surprise has been the emergence of redshirt sophomore Todd Nicholas. Todd, who played his true freshman year, then redshirted his true sophomore year, hit 96 miles per hour on the MSU gun, and was consistently in the low to mid-90's with his fastball on my gun. And not only was he throwing hard, but he also exhibited very good control and confidence on the mound, something he didn't consistent show his first two years at State.
Three redshirt freshmen pitchers (Jacob Ociesa, Jamie Gant and Brett Cleveland) all had very good outings their first time that I saw them. Ociesa, who throws in the high 80's, only allowed 1 hit and walked 2 while striking out 7 in his one outing. He did not allow a run. A big kid, I expect Ociesa to increase his velocity as he continues to mature. Gant, who had a great deal of trouble with his control last fall, has greatly improved that while also increasing his fastball a few miles per hour. During his first outing, he allowed 2 runs on 3 hits and 7 walks in 6 innings (all batters had 2-1 counts on them when they stepped to the plate). Cleveland, who throws in the mid to high 80's, allowed 1 earned run on 2 hits and 9 walks while striking out 3 in his outing.
Newcomer Alan Johnson, while not a hard thrower (mid-80's), was very effective his first outing. Throwing 6 innings, he allowed 1 earned run on 7 hits and 5 walks. He struck out 9, second on the staff to the 11 struck out by Nicholas.
On the hitting front, true freshman centerfielder Joseph Hunter has looked good with 5 hits in 12 at bats (.420 BA). Two of his hits were off of Nicholas; one on a 93 mph fastball, which shows that he has good batspeed.
Redshirt freshman catcher/third baseman Thomas Berkery has also hit the ball well, going 5-of-14 (.360) with 2 RBIs. Thomas led his summer league in homers this past summer.
Junior first baseman Matthew Brinson is 3-of-3 (.333) with a home run to his credit as well as 4 RBIs.
For those of you who haven't noticed, my front page now has a Gene's Page Control Panel near the top of the front page. It is directly below the three banners and goes completely across the page. The Control Panel allows you easy access to quite a few locations on my site. You can also access your account on it by clicking the My Account link. That will allow you to access your account (My Member Profile) so that you can change your email address, password or to see your Gene's Page subscription information (My Subscriptions).
UPCOMING CALENDAR EVENTS
If you don't see your event listed on the Gene's Page calendar, please email Mary Ann 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:
September 9, 2002
September 2, 2002
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.