After taking two positive steps the past two games, the Bulldogs took a negative step backwards with their loss to Kentucky.
While certain phases of the Bulldog game have seen improvements during the past couple of games, the Bulldogs reverted back to making mistakes that cost them dearly.
This time it was the punting team and interceptions that did the Bulldogs in.
The punting team allowed two third quarter punt return touchdowns by Kentucky's Derek Abney that completely turned the game around. The Bulldogs were leading 17-16 prior to the first of those two touchdowns. Sandwiched between another touchdown drive of 50 yards, those two touchdowns put the Wildcats ahead 37-17, and like so many other games this year, the Bulldogs begin making mistakes while trying to get back into the game.
After scoring a touchdown on a 6-play, 60-yard drive to pull to within 13, the Bulldogs then allowed a safety and threw two interceptions their next three possessions that allowed the Wildcats to take home a 45-24 victory.
While turnovers continue to plagued this team, especially in the losses (averaging 4.6 turnovers per game compared to 1.7 in the victories), MSU has some positive things to build on.
After exhibiting almost no running game the first 6 games of the season (2.9 ypc), the Bulldog rushing game has averaged 4.7 yards per carry the past two games. You can chalk a large part of that to the fact that true freshman running back Jerious Norwood has started to receive a significant number of carries (24 carries, 199 yards, 8.3 ypc). Jerious has a chance to be a great one in the very near future.
The team has also cut down on its penalties. After averaging a little over 9 penalties the first four games of the season, the Bulldogs have averaged a little over 5 the last four games.
The kicking position, since Brent Smith has taken over the kicking chores, has also improved. Brent has made 9 of 13 field goal attempts, including 6 of 6 from 40 yards and in. He has also made a 47 yarder and a 52 yarder.
Another improvement that not many folks have noticed is in the punt return game. MSU, since Korey Banks have been installed as the punt returner (Troy State game), has averaged 17.7 yards per punt return. Prior to that, MSU was averaging 8.6 yards per return.
While I know it is really hard to see improvement as the losses pile up, there really are things that MSU is starting to do well. That gives me hope for the future.
Speaking of the future....
During the past week, MSU has received commitments from two more high school players, offensive lineman Lance Fremin (6-2, 27) and linebacker Brad Horton (6-1, 230, 4.6). Lance is the younger son of former MSU offensive line coach of Jerry Fremin. Lance also received strong interest from Louisiana-Monroe and had started to receive slight interest from Ole Miss. Brad chose MSU over Georgia, Florida, Middle Tennessee and Georgia Southern. According to Brad, all five schools offered scholarships.
MSU now has commitments from 10 players.
Brian Anderson, OL, Patrician Academy (Butler, AL.).
Lance Fremin, OL, Starkville (MS) HS.
J. J. Grant, DE, Butler (KS) CC.
Ken Griffith, LB, Brandon (MS) HS.
Avery Hannibal, DE, Troup County (GA) HS.
Brad Horton, LB, Spencer HS (Columbus, GA).
Quinton McCrary, LB/DS, Columbus (MS) HS.
Deljuan Robinson, DL/LB, Hernando (MS) HS.
Scott Shurden, K, Noxapater (MS) HS.
Chris Swain, DS, Jones County (MS) JC.
Football academics continue to be impressive....
AP writer Ralph Russo had a nice football graduation article that appeared in The Clarion-Ledger Sunday.
Mississippi State, which has graduated at least 70% of its football players each year for the last 10 years according to the AFCA graduation rate method, has also done well based upon the NCAA's method of determining the graduation rate.
For the last NCAA reported year, 1995/1996, MSU led the six state universities in graduation rate with 62%. Southern Miss was second with 56%, while Mississippi Valley State was third with a rate of 53%. Ole Miss came in fourth with 49%. MSU's four-year average of 60% was also the best in the state. MSU's 1995/1996 graduation rate also led all public institutions in the SEC.
For those of you wondering how the AFCA and NCAA come up with their rates, the NCAA allows each student-athlete a period of six years to graduate while the AFCA allows the students five and a half years. Junior college players are included in the AFCA criteria while they are not counted in the NCAA's criteria, which is a high school student-athlete rate only. The AFCA also rewards or punishes an institution's graduation rate based on the academic standing of a student who transfers to another institution prior to the end of the five-year period. The NCAA's method does not take into consideration what kind of academic standing a student-athlete has when he transfers to another institution. If he enters five years prior and he doesn't graduate from the institution he started at, then he is counted against that institution's rate. (See below for a more detailed explanation of the two rates.-Gene)
I found it interesting that Tracy Robinson, the Southern Miss director of academic support services, was quoted as saying that, "I would like to see (the NCAA graduation rate method) put more consideration on the student-athletes who leave in good academic standing and transfer to another institution, instead of being penalized for that student." This is exactly what the AFCA is already doing.
The bottom line is, no matter what method is used, the Mississippi State football program is doing an excellent job graduating its student-athletes.
For those of you who want to know in even more greater detail the graduation rate differences in the two methods, here is something I posted on my April, 1999 football skuttle-butt.
1) The AFCA technically covers up to five and a half years and the NCAA survey is for six years.
2) The NCAA does not allow transfers to be included in or excluded from the grad rates, the AFCA does.
Now to the nuts and bolts of the AFCA graduation rate calculation. We will use the academic year 1992/1993 as an example:
1)Add (+): Number of students who enrolled for their first year of college work at your institution during the academic year of 1992/1993 or the preceding summer session and who were awarded a grant-in-aid in the sport of football.
2) Add (+): Number of students who enrolled for their first year of college work at your institution during the academic year of 1992/1993 and who were awarded a grant-in-aid in the sport of football subsequent to their enrollment.
3) Add (+): Number of students who enrolled for their first year of college work during the academic year of 1992/1993 in an institution other than yours, subsequently transferred to your institution and received a grant-in-aid in the sport of football from your institution.
4) Subtract (-): Number of students who enrolled for their first year of college work at your institution during the academic year of 1992/1993 and received a grant-in-aid, but transferred to another institution in good academic standing.
Basically, what number 2 covers are college students who decide they want to play football, walk on and are awarded a football grant-in-aid.
Number 3 covers transfers such as juco players and players from other 4-year colleges who transfer to your school.
Number 4 is the complicated category since it allows a school to exclude students from the graduation rate. The key phrase is "students in good academic standing who transfer to another institution". That is the only type student that can be excluded. All others cannot be excluded. When I say all others I mean the following categories:
a) Withdrew from school in good academic standing but didn't transfer to another school.
b) Not in good academic standing and transfers to another school.
c) Withdrew from your institution without completing their athletic eligibility and without graduating.
d) Discontinued athletic participation without completing eligibility and are currently enrolled at your institution.
e) Completed their athletic eligibility, have not graduated but are currently enrolled in your institution.
f) Completed athletic eligibility and discontinued their education without graduating.
g) Completed their eligibility, have not yet graduated but plan to re-enroll and graduate.
Basketball is less than one week away.
Helping to quench the thirst for a little basketball as we await the season opener, Coach Stansbury and crew gave MSU fans a little taste with a three session exhibition this past Saturday.
Highlights from the scrimmage included the following:
UPCOMING CALENDAR EVENTS
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Well, that wraps up this week's edition of the Monday Morning Bulldog Coffee Break.
Have a great Bulldog week!
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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 email@example.com.