MSU-Alabama Press Conference Transcript

Mississippi State head football coach Sylvester Croom talks about his team's upcoming opponent, Alabama, as well as thoughts about his own team.

Opening Statement:

"We started off yesterday's practice a little rusty, particularly in the line on both sides of the ball. That's something that we have to get squared away today. We'll practice in pads today. I intended in not going in pads tomorrow, but that depends on how sharp we get with our lines today. We have to get our pad level down and get out steps and landmarks and hand placements back to where they were for the Kentucky game.

"We needed the rest because we had some guys who would not have played last week (due to injuries) and some guys who were tired mentally. We should have everybody back to work today.

"It's a big game this week. The significance of it is Alabama and that's enough really to be honest with you. It's a chance for us to move into bowl eligibility. That's a place that we haven't been in a long time. We have a chance to really have an outstanding season if we can close it out strong. This game is a very critical part of that.

"I think Alabama is playing very good football right now. They are one of the top teams in the country. They probably should have won the LSU game. Had it not been for the fumble on the last play of the game I think they would have proceeded down the field and probably put the game in overtime or have a chance to win the game. There are a lot of things, but the one thing in particular that impresses me about Alabama is the number of close games that they have won this year. If the game is close, they have found a way to win the game at the end. It is definitely going to be a sixty-minute ballgame. And we are going to have to be at our best throughout the course of the ballgame. We can't turn the ball over or give them any second chance opportunities. Our kicking game is going to have to play at its best because they have an excellent return game."

How are the players handling completely focusing on this game?
"We are doing that very well. One thing I really respect about this team is that we have done an excellent job of focusing on the moment - taking one day at a time, not just one game. I think that is why we have gotten better during the course of the year."

Is this as healthy as your guys have been at this time of year since you have been here?
"There is no question about that. Everybody is healthy and ready to go, even Mike (Henig) is back healthy again. This is as healthy has we have been all year."

Did this past weekend's bye week come at a great time for your team?
"Oh yeah, there is no question about that because we had been going for so long. We had the early game and we work hard. We work pretty hard and take a lot of pride in that. And we think it is paying off for us.

"I was watching the games over the weekend and somebody said they didn't hit during practice. I said, 'whoa.' That hasn't happened around here I can tell you that. We are a physical football team, so we wear the shoulder pads out every day. I don't know how you stay sharp and be a physical football team without doing that. I thought I was giving them a break by not having them put on full pads. Obviously, I'm not in the 21st century yet when it comes to football practice."

What is the biggest difference in this year's Alabama team compared to last year's team?
"The fact that they are winning the close ballgames. And last year they didn't have success doing that. I think that says a lot about the influence that Nick (Saban) has brought to their program. And I think the play of John Parker Wilson, their quarterback, also has a lot to do with that."

What are your thoughts about their receivers?
"They are excellent receivers, probably the best corps receivers that we have played this year. Either one of them can beat you on a single play. And that is the thing that concerns you the most about their passing game. Those guys can take the short passes and run the ball in, but they are speedy enough to also get over the top of you. We really have to do a great job to keep the ball in front of us. If they complete passes, we need to make sure they complete them in front of us and we have to come up and tackle the football."

How big of a factor will it be that your team was off this weekend while Alabama had a very emotional game against LSU this past weekend?
"I don't put a lot into that. They are a good football team; they didn't get there by accident. They will bounce back from the LSU loss and be ready to play. Their coaches have been there and will have them ready to play. There is a lot of emotion and pride involve in games. I think a big factor in this game is who goes out there and hits the hardest.

"I also feel good about our football team and we are looking forward to playing this game. Even if we hadn't been off, I would probably still feel good about it because they are our neighbors across the street. So, 11:30 Saturday morning it will be time to play. Any negatives due to injuries and what happened last week, none of that will have an affect on this ballgame."

What are your thoughts about the style of defensive scheme they play this year compared to the type they played last season?
"There is not a lot of difference. To be honest with you, I have been trying to track down the relationship because I see a lot of the same things. I know that (Alabama defensive coordinator) Kevin (Steele) was with Mickey Andrews. And I know that (former Alabama defensive coordinator) Joe Kines and Mickey Andrews are bosom buddies. And I know that Nick (Saban) was doing some things at LSU and Michigan State and I still see some of those things, too. In fact, I'm amazed at the similarities."

How important has having the same offensive line healthy throughout the year been to your team's success?
"It is a very positive point. It wouldn't surprise me at all if you looked at the better teams in the country that they are starting the same group of people, particularly at quarterback and offensive line. When you start having injuries at those two spots you are going to having problems. I think that is the reason we have been able to get better. Once Wes (Carroll) established himself as a quarterback that we could win with and the consistency of the offensive line, those were the keys factors during the season."

What happened with Jonathan Lowe? Why did he leave here and go to Alabama?
"Jonathan has strong Alabama ties with his family. And they didn't initially offer him, so Jonathan (signed with MSU). He started out as our kick returner and had a big kick return in the Florida game. Then, he hit a spell where he wasn't handling the ball as well. And we made a change. Then, he didn't get a lot of playing time. We played him at running back, wide receiver, but we had (Jerious) Norwood at the time. We just never could find a fit for him. And in the process he decided it was best if he moved on. And we granted him his wish."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the sports network. You can contact him by email at

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