Grindle, Gholar and Dogs Bank on 'End Run'

They realize more and more every day they're getting closer and closer to chalking up a big SEC win and finishing up the 2002 regular season on a strong note.<P> If you talk to a Mississippi State player - offense, defense, or special teams - they'll all tell you the same: "We have to stick together, play hard and something good is about to happen."

Mississippi State split end Terrell Grindle of Hattiesburg, MS, is one of the senior leaders on offense, going about his job quietly as he strings together an impressive receiving streak. Grindle caught three passes for 22 yards against Alabama last weekend in a road game that the Dogs had their chance to win and snap a two-game skid. It was the 23rd straight game in which the record-setting receiver has made at least one reception and the 17th consecutive game in which he has caught two or more passes.

"I thought we really played well against Alabama especially in the first half (offensively), and then the defense started to take over," said Grindle, a key weapon in the Dogs' pass and catch game.

"I feel like we came out in the first half of the game against Alabama playing together and everybody was doing their job, which was making plays when they need to be made," noted Grindle.

"Everything was going like a whirlpool," he said with a grin. "We feel like we need to come out with the same kind of fire and intensity against Tennessee as we did last week against Alabama. Instead of just playing 30 minutes of it, hopefully, this week we're looking at it as playing the whole game."

Mississippi State coach Jackie Sherrill's Bulldogs would love nothing better than to have a breakout game against the Vols Saturday before a sellout crowd at Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field. The Bulldogs upset nationally No. 21-ranked Tennessee, 24-21, on the Vols' last visit to Starkville in 1994, Sherrill's fourth campaign at Mississippi State.

"Everybody is looking forward to the game because everybody sees Tennessee as a big time school, so we would like to show people we can play with the big schools," said Grindle, who hauled in a school-record 91-yard TD pass thrown by junior quarterback Kevin Fant of Moss Point, MS, two weeks ago against the Kentucky Wildcats.

"I'm just thankful for having the opportunity to play like I have," said the Dogs' fleet, 5-10, 190-pound pass catcher who has eclipsed the century mark in receiving yards three times this season. He's fifth on the school career receiving list with 113 catches, pulling to within three receptions of Mardye McDole who is fourth on the charts. The gifted pass catcher needs just 17 yards to overtake Bill Buckley (1,632 yards, 1971-73), standing in sixth place in career receiving yards.

Grindle is paying more attention to the "W's" and "L's" than all the records he's fast closing in on.

"I've been working hard during my time here at Mississippi State and I'm very thankful," he said. "I'm just trying to finish these last three games out the best I can.

"I feel like if we win a couple of games to finish the season that'll be a good note, make us feel better about the season. I believe before the year is out people will see us play the best game we've played. That would be a happy time for everybody," he said.

On the other side of the ball, the defense has definitely improved according to Sherrill, "Dean of SEC coaches."

"The defense is picking up with each game, playing together, playing with consistency," said Sherrill.

The Dogs, who dropped a tough 28-14 decision at Tuscaloosa, AL, rank sixth in the league and 26th in the country in total defense, allowing 327 yards a game, an overall total of 1482 rushing and 1461 passing.

One of the reasons is senior All-American linebacker Mario Haggan of Clarksdale, MS, who has eclipsed the 100 tackles barrier with 105 this season. Another is Michael Gholar, Prentiss, MS, who led the Dogs with 13 tackles against the Crimson Tide.

"That's something that's all about effort," said Gholar, who often checks in on MSU hoops coach Rick Stansbury's defending SEC Tournament champions when he can.

"I got over to The Hump Saturday night after we got back from Alabama," said Gholar, a key member of last year's SEC champs. "It was about 8-10 minutes remaining in the game. They looked pretty good. I hope they continue to play hard and I hope they have another good season."

It'll take winning out for the Bulldogs to extend their season on the gridiron, but it's something that the team has set its sights on accomplishing.

"Coach (Curley) Hallman (defensive backs) mentioned it to us in our meeting yesterday (Monday)," noted Gholar, "an athlete with a lot of talent," according to Sherrill.

"We believe we can do it, win out," said Gholar. "We're getting better ever game.

"It's a case of consistency. We have to stay consistent," said Gholar, who has improved his chances of making it to the NFL twofold since nailing down a starting job in the Bulldog secondary in only his first year out for football at the college level.

"We played one of our better games against Alabama. We're not going to quit. That's something that we are not going to do. We just have to keep pushing. Try our best to get a win in these last three games, try to win out," added Gholar.

That's something the good-natured, yet hard-hitting defender knows about - winning out!


Don Foster, a veteran newspaper writer who is the Sports Editor for the Starkville Daily News, writes a weekly article for Gene's Page.

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