MSU-Arkansas Press Conference Transcript

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

Opening Statement:

"Yesterday, we worked outside in shorts for a little while just to introduce them to the Arkansas gameplan.

"We had a lot of guys play well in a game like the win over Alabama last weekend. Our defensive player of the game, and the SEC Defensive Player of the Week, was Anthony Johnson. Our offensive player of the game was Anthony Dixon. And our special teams player was two guys who haven't gotten a lot of credit this year was Adam Carlson, our kicker, and Blake McAdams, our punter. Both did an outstanding job for us in the game last week.

"The captains for the Arkansas game will be our tight end, Eric Butler, who had an excellent game. On defense, Gabriel O'Neal, who has played extremely well the entire season. And on special teams, Tim Bailey, who has done an exceptional job on special teams all year. He also played his best game on defense as well. He played backup to Titus (Brown) and also in our speed rush package. We actually had him on the nose and he turned in a significant performance, and a couple of times he actually lined up at defensive tackle in some schemes that we had. And a lot of other guys played well including our entire secondary and our offensive line.

"(The Alabama win) was a big win for us. It got us bowl eligible, but that's really about all it did. That means we are eligible to go to a bowl. It doesn't mean we are in one. Now, we have to go about the task of getting ourselves in one. If we can win this game, then I would think that clearly puts us in a bowl game, but it's not going to be easy because history is not on our side. But, then again, it hasn't been for sometime.

"It will be a great challenge for us going to Arkansas where we have never won. We are playing an outstanding team even though they have hit some low points lately. But from one week to the next they can be as explosive as anybody in the conference and in the country. We all know they have, who in my opinion, is the best football player in the country - Darren McFadden, a guy who is a Heisman Trophy candidate. As far as I'm concerned it's already his. They should go ahead and chisel his name on it. The guy is a tremendous player. Their defense goes unnoticed, but they are a very good defensive team. They have given us problems the past three seasons. And they've even added more elements to their scheme. They are blitzing even more than they have. They come from a lot of different directions from a lot of different fronts. It's going to be a huge, huge problem for us. Our guys are really going to have to understand where they are coming from and what they are doing in order to be able to handle their blitzes. Their kicking game is outstanding. They have scored points on us in our three games with them since we have been here. And they were all a turning point in each of those games. That cannot happen this time if we expect to have any chance of winning the football game."

What is the best way to defend Darren McFadden?
"You really don't want me to know my opinion on that one. I could get arrested (laugh). The best way I know of is for him not to show up."

What kind of player is Tim Bailey and what does he bring to the team?
"Tim is probably the epitome of what our team is about, an unselfish football team. When I asked him to move from backup middle linebacker to a backup defensive end to Titus Brown, he didn't even hesitate. And he was moving behind someone who was going to get a lot of playing time. But his only concern was whether he was big enough. I told him, 'no, you are not, but use what you have. And that is your quickness, your leverage and your toughness.' And that's what he has done."

When you walked out of the stadium after the game Saturday, what did you do during your 24 hours of celebration?
"I spent the evening with my granddaughter. And I enjoyed it. She's getting close to five-years old now. And she loves her poppy and poppy loves her. We were able to sit and talk and enjoy each other's company. They left Sunday morning. After I started on the Arkansas gameplan later in the evening that was when it finally hit me - I was just exhausted. I went to bed early, but I didn't get to sleep until after midnight because I can't sleep when I really get tired. It had been a long week and the emotions of the games caused me to be totally exhausted.

"In close ballgames like that you know as a coach, even on that last drive, you know in your mind that it's out of your control. Your players have played as well as they can play. And now you just hope that that ball doesn't take a bad bounce. Titus' sack was a key play because you worry about if that ball leaves his hand and stays in the air for six seconds anything can happen. That ball could have been tipped, they could get it and all of that performance, all that they had done is gone in a split second. The emotions of that time, that was the longest 38 seconds of my life. And that drains you. I've been in games like that. Remember, I was at Green Bay ... it was my last game with the Packers and it was 4th and 22. That was tough because it cost us a chance to go to the Super Bowl. All those kind of things go through the back of your mind. And it is emotionally draining."

Are you glad that Wesley Carroll got his bad game out of his system?
"No, I'm not glad at all, but it's inevitable because he's going to be a freshman sometime. The good thing is he was a freshman and we won. For thirty minutes, he was a true freshman and we found a way to win. The great thing about it is I never heard any complaints or lack of confidence from any of the other players. That says a lot about them. Everybody adjusted and, basically, we turned into a wishbone team."

Are you worried about how your team will respond after such an emotional game?
"If this had happened to us last year or the first couple of weeks this season, I would have been extremely worried. But after about 15 plays of 9 on 7 today I'm not worried about it. We'll knock them right back down to earth. But their attitude is good. They bounced back after the Kentucky game and the Auburn game. And a lot of that is where they want to go. Their goal is to get into a bowl game and they haven't done that yet. One more win, ok, we can celebrate a little bit more."

What is the status of cornerback Tay Bowser?
"We thought he moved around in practice pretty decently last week and we thought he was ready to go. But after practice was over, he didn't respond in a positive way. So, we are going to go that route again today after a good day of work. It's kind of funny. Our trainer, Paul Mock, came in and said he's great except he can't turn and run backwards. I said, 'well, he is a cornerback, so he's no good to us if he can't turn and run backwards.' So, we will try to find out today if he can turn and run backwards."

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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