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Monday Morning Coffee Break

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FOOTBALL

Mississippi State has now lost 4 of 5 games this season and 14 of its last 19. MSU fans are growing frustrated, taking their frustrations out on the internet message boards. A few folks are starting to talk about who they would like to see as the new head football coach. Some folks are even emailing me wanting me to tell them what is wrong with our football program.

Like everyone else, I am also frustrated. Next to the coaches and players, I am probably more frustrated than most. Unlike your normal everyday fan, I am allowed to go to practice, which allows me to get to know the players on a more personal basis.

Because of that, some fans think I see the answer to whatever is ill about our team right now. Trust me, I don't know. And if I did, I would be on the phone to Coach Sherrill with my solution.

Now, with that said, I will give you my opinions. Please understand these are nothing more than opinions.

Our coaches haven't all of a sudden forgotten how to coach. Just as all of us don't just forget how to do our job, the coaches also don't just forget how to coach.

So, if it's not the coaches, then what is it you ask.

Is it penalties as so many have said. Kentucky, Alabama and Auburn have more penalties than MSU and all are 4-1 after their first five games. That's obviously not the problem.

Is it turnovers? MSU is last in the SEC in turnover ratio. That is part of the problem, but it's not the only problem.

Looking over the SEC team stats prior to the South Carolina game, here is how MSU ranked:

  • Scoring offense: 11th
  • Scoring defense: 11th
  • Rushing offense: 12th
  • Passing offense: 4th
  • Rushing defense: 12th
  • Passing defense: 2nd
  • Total offense: 11th
  • Total defense: 9th
  • Kickoff returns: 4th
  • Kickoff coverage: 8th
  • Punt returns: 7th
  • Net punting: 10th
  • Pass efficiency: 11th
  • Pass defense efficiency: 11th
  • Turnover margin: 12th
  • Time of possession: 11th
  • Red zone offense: 2nd (11-of-12)
  • Red zone defense: 11th

    In 18 categories, MSU is last or next to last in 10. Basically, MSU is ineffective across the board, offense, defense, punting and kickoff coverage. However, if you are looking for glimmers of hope, look at the red zone offense and kickoff returns. MSU, when it gets within the red zone, has not been stopped but once and that on an interception. And MSU is 4th in kickoff returns.

    What does that tell you?

    First thing that comes to my mind is the offensive and defensive lines are not producing. Folks always say it starts in the trenches.

    The facts are the offensive line is inexperienced and, at some positions, very young. They have basically been thrown to the SEC wolves and are having a difficult time, especially making holes for running plays. Learning to play together and adding strength are two things that will eventually solve this problem.....I hope.

    The defensive line has me stumped. I really feel that the first unit of Tommy Kelly, Kahlil Nash and Ronald Fields all have SEC talent. I even believe that Fields and Kelly have enough talent to play on the NFL level. With the exception of Lennie Day, none of the reserves have stood out. The move of Willie Evans from fullback to defensive line could pay dividends later in the season.

    The second thing that comes to mind are the dropped passes by the wide receivers. Like last season, there have been numerous drops by the receivers, at least a couple have been potential touchdown passes. In my opinion, all that is is lack of concentration on their part. They concentrate; they catch the ball. Will they eventually be able to concentrate? I wish I knew.

    Another problem has been the right cornerback position. A great number of the big pass plays have been against that position. With the move of Richard Ball to that position, that problem may have been solved. Time will tell.

    The DOG safety positions have also been a problem. Even during the spring no one really stood out enough to make those two positions theirs. Injuries to Gabe Wallace and Rico Bennett have made it even tougher. Because of that, MSU has moved Josh Morgan and true freshman Darren Williams to the DOG safety positions. Michael Gholar has been installed at free safety. Gholar and Williams will make mistakes, but at least we know they have exceptional talent and will get better as the season progresses.

    The final problem - and this is a big one - is turnovers. State, during the 5 games played so far, has turned the ball over 18 times while gaining 7. Right now, MSU is not playing well enough to take advantage of turnovers it receives and is not good enough to keep teams from capitalizing on gift turnovers.

    So, with all those problems, what solutions are there? Sorry to say, but there aren't any easy solutions. Coach Sherrill obviously knows there are problems. He continues to make personnel changes and also continues to play the highly touted freshman class of 2002. He also is trying to call plays that fit the players ability and experience. During the season, there is really nothing else he can do. Even though some fans have said new assistant coaches might be the answer, you don't fire assistant coaches mid-season. As for the fans, we can do one of two things, support or not support the team. Only you can make the choice.

    Now, what about the fans who say it is time for Coach Sherrill to go. Read on....

    Time for a coaching change?....

    Forget emotions for a while and digest the following.

    I decided I would look at the history of MSU football and see what that tells me about our success when changing coaches. Folks, it's not pretty.

    During the tenure of current MSU head football coach Jackie Sherrill has had 7 winning seasons in 11 years. MSU has also won 42 SEC games while losing 44 and tying 1. Not great but not bad considering MSU's 35-year history prior to Coach Sherrill.

    I'll use my 35 years of life prior to the Coach Sherrill era at MSU as a time frame. From the time I was 3 years old until I was 38, MSU had 10 winning seasons. Yep, you read it right, 10. The other 25 years MSU either had a losing season or, during one year, a .500 season.

    During the 35 years prior to Coach Sherrill's tenure, MSU had 6 coaches. Here are their records.

  • Rockey Felker: 1 winning season in 5
  • Emory Bellard: 2 winning seasons in 7
  • Bob Tyler: 4 winning seasons in 6
  • Charlie Shira: 1 winning season in 6
  • Paul Davis: 1 winning season in 5
  • Wade Walker: 1 winning season in 6

    As is usually the case, based on MSU coaching history, Bob Tyler, the one winner during this period, wound up being fired. That is not the first time MSU has fired a successful coach. Allyn McKeen, after winning 65 of 87 games (3 ties are included) in 9 years, was fired three days after the conclusion of the 1948 season. He never had a losing season while at State.

    Other facts to make you think.

  • While Coach Sherrill has won 42 SEC games in 11 seasons, the previous 35 years MSU had won 56.
  • While Coach Sherrill has sent 6 teams to bowl games in his 11 years, MSU went to 4 bowl games the previous 35.
  • During his 4 losing seasons at State, Coach Sherrill has defeated Ole Miss 3 of the 4. Hey, we might have had a losing season, but at least he made it easier to smile when seeing Ole Miss fans. He even kept them from going to a bowl game last season.
  • Speaking of Ole Miss. While Coach Sherrill has defeated Ole Miss 7 of 11 times during his tenure, the previous 35 years, MSU defeated Ole Miss 8 times while losing 24 and tying 3. Think about that, in 11 years Coach Sherrill has almost as many wins over Ole Miss as all the coaches in the previous 35 years. And you wonder why Ole Miss fans didn't call for the head of those coaches during the previous 35 years. And you also wonder why a select few Ole Miss fans want Coach Sherrill gone, even to the point, as rumor has it, of hiring private investigators to see if they could find MSU recruiting violations. Those select few Ole Miss fans want the state back and they know as long as Coach Sherrill is here, they won't be able to get it back.

    Other facts to ponder.

  • Coach Sherrill has never had more than 2 consecutive losing seasons during his entire coaching career.
  • Teams coached by Sherrill have never gone more than 3 years without playing in a bowl game.
  • When Coach Sherrill sees a problem due to lack of talent, he signs great recruiting classes, i.e., 1997, 2002.
  • Almost without fail during his few losing seasons, Coach Sherrill's teams have gone from being routed in some cases to making scores close during the latter part of the season. In fact, during his 4 losing seasons at MSU, the losses late in the season have varied from 11 points (1 time), 9 points (1), 8 points (1), 7 points (1), 5 points (2) to 3 points (5). That tells me he makes adjustments which usually carry over to the next season, which is usually a winning season.

    While I realize a lot of us believe the pasture always appears to be greener on the other side (I am guilty of this as well), that has not always been the case when it comes to changing football coaches at MSU as evidenced by the facts listed above.

    The bottom line is this: Is Coach Sherrill the man who can return MSU back to its winning ways? Facts seem to indicate he is. However, while facts indicate one thing, I also know there could be that next great MSU coach just waiting to receive that call from Larry Templeton. And then again, there may be that next unsuccessful MSU coach, who Ole Miss fans would love to see at MSU, waiting to receive that call from Larry. Are you ready to take that gamble?

    Suffice it to say I'm glad all I have to do is maintain my little old webpage and not have to make coaching decisions.

    BASKETBALL

    Less than one week and counting. MSU basketball, huge expectations and all that goes with it, is right around the corner. Well, maybe not the season, but practice, anyway. Picked by just about all the so called experts to be a top 20 team, Mississippi State will have Maroon Madness this coming Friday night (Oct. 11) as part of this weekend's football homecoming. Beginning at 10:30 p.m. in Humphrey Coliseum, fans can get autographs from players on both teams.

    Prior to midnight, coach Sharon Fanning's Lady Bulldogs will be introduced, while members of the team, including three-time Kodak All-American LaToya Thomas and all-SEC standout Tan White, are expected to participate in some competitive drills. Coach Rick Stansbury's 2002-03 Bulldogs - the defending SEC Tournament champions - will then take part in a 20-minute scrimmage shortly after midnight to signal the official start of collegiate basketball practice.

    Exhibition basketball competition begins next month at MSU's Humphrey Coliseum, with the Lady Bulldogs taking on the Houston Jaguars on Friday, Nov. 8, while the Bulldogs will play host to BWB of California the following day (Saturday, Nov. 9).

    Season tickets have been mailed out. The order deadline is October 18th.

    BASEBALL

    The annual MSU baseball Banana Split Series is set to begin this Tuesday (Oct. 8th). It is a best of five series.

    The Maroon-White game is set for this Friday (Oct. 11th at 4 p.m.). Immediately after the game the Dugout Club will have its annual Cookout for Dugout Club members. If you are interested in joining the Dugout Club please contact the baseball office at 662-325-3597. The annual dues are $50.

    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 maryannswindoll@genespage.com.

    Well, that wraps up this week's edition of the Monday Morning Bulldog Coffee Break.

    Have a great Bulldog week!

    Gene Swindoll



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    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 swindoll@genespage.com.

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