Were you a little nervous at first since it was your first start?
"I was trying to get it together because they put me in the fire. The first couple of plays they ran right at me. I just had to buckle down and square up and make the tackles. I wasn't able to do that and missed a couple of tackles."
Will this start help you as a freshman for the future?
"Yeah, it will be good. It gives me some snaps before the season is over with. It gives me something to look forward to for next year."
Did it surprise you that Arkansas has success running the ball right at you guys early on?
"Yeah, I knew that they were going to run it but I didn't have it in my mind that they would come right at me. I had to adjust to it."
Were you expecting more of an option game from them?
"We were expecting more of an option that anything else, but they didn't run too much option."
How much pressure was on you since Mario couldn't go and you had to?
"I had butterflies in my stomach until after that first play. I then knew they were going to come at me so I knew that I had to make plays right away."
How big was that first drive in the second half when you slammed the down shut and made them kick a field goal?
"That was really big. We knew we had to play hard."
In the second half the entire defense seemed to settle down a little bit. What kind of adjustments did you make?
"We made some adjustments on our blitzes because they were mainly running on the outside in between the guard and center. Our coaches told us to go hard and low and blitz enough to hold them up so that our DOG safeties could make the tackles on the outside."
How much will your experience playing as a freshman help you in the future?
"It is going to help me a lot, especially getting to play the whole game today."
Playing today was almost like staking a claim for Mario's job for next season.
"Mario was like my coach today. Everything I did today, he would come up to me and tell me what I was doing wrong or what I needed to do. He helped me out a lot."
Are you ready to take his job next year?
LB T.J. Mawhinney
Talk a little about Arkansas' offensive line.
"That number 73 is probably one of the best offensive linemen in the league right now. They were lining up 7 or 8 blockers to our 6 in the box at times and it was hard. But that was what we were running and we had to keep plugging. We knew that they were going to run and they have a dangerous quarterback, so we had to be careful about Matt (Jones) getting out in the field."
Talk a little about Ole Miss.
"I'm going to watch them (Saturday) night. They have a great passing game. They have a big, physical offensive line. They're running game isn't too good, but they are good at what they do. We are just going to go there and try to bring the Egg Bowl back (with us)."
Did you feel you guys come out flat in the first half or were they just doing things that you really didn't expect and had to adjust to them?
"No, we knew what to expect from them, but we were kind of getting caught off on the defensive line. We had our defensive tackles head up over their guards and they were reaching our guards and making big holes. Our linebackers were coming up but they were bouncing outside early. We shaded them a little bit and we slowed them down a little bit. But they have a great running game. They have good angles and cutback lanes that we needed to seal off. We settled down in the second half but we shouldn't have done what we did in the first quarter."
Will this Egg Bowl have more significance than others of the past due to the off the field activities that have gone on such as the cowbell penalty and a few other things?
"It is a heated rivalry. I think it is our 99th meeting between the two teams. I don't think any of the off the field things will play into it."
You guys don't talk about the things that have gone on?
"No, I don't talk about it. We are just going to be ready to play and I know they will be ready to play."
RB Justin Griffith
Talk about your five years here at State.
"The first year we went to the SEC Championship Game and the Cotton Bowl. The second year we went to the Peach Bowl. The third year we went to the Independence Bowl. Now, the last two years we haven't gone to a bowl or had a winning season. That was kind of hard to deal with knowing that we have potential and have all the talent in the world. We have potential to be a real good team. I know that coach Sherrill is going to fix it. Next year, Mississippi State will have a winning football team."
Have you tried to be a mentor to the young guys?
"Me and Jerious (Norwood) are roommates. We sit up an talk and go over plays, look at plays on film. I think he really looks up at me. I thank God for giving me the chance to mentor him. I believe he is going to be a good ball player."
One more big game.
"One more big one. We are going to start (Sunday). This is going to be hot game for us. I know that Ole Miss will be hyped too. We are going to have two teams playing each other on Thanksgiving night."
Aren't you studying to be a minister?
"Yes, I gave a sermon two and a half weeks ago, the night before the Kentucky game."
I know your dad is a minister. When did you decide to do that?
"I've been thinking about that for many, many years."
When will you be a full fledged minister?
"I will be full fledged December 14th. I spoke my first sermon the night before we played Kentucky, but December 14th I will receive my minister's license."
What will you be, hopefully an NFL player and a minister?
"That's the plan right now."
QB Kyle York
Do you think it gave your team some momentum going into the next game after being down 26 to 6 and with a chance to win at the end of the game?
"I think it does. We didn't win and that is the most important thing, but going into Thursday it gives our offense a little spark. Or at least I hope it does."
You've had a lot of playing time this year. That has obviously help give you some confidence.
"It has. I know for a fact that I'm a better quarterback than I was when we went out and played at Oregon. But I still have to make a lot of strides in all facets of the game if I want to be the quarterback that I think I'm capable of being."
Another hostile environment this Thursday.
"It is going to be hostile. Certainly not the most hostile that we have faced this year, but anytime you face your rival on Thanksgiving night, it's a big deal."
Maybe the intensity more than the hostile environment is what is significant about the Ole Miss game.
"It is intense. It is something that you really can't understand unless you are a part of it. I figured that out last year when I had my first Egg Bowl.
"I hate to say momentum because we lost this game. But offensively there are some things that we can build on now. There are some things that we did well late in the game."
Talk about the play of the offensive line late in the game.
"They did an outstanding job. I can't give enough credit to them. They protected me extremely well. They did a good job of making their checks, making their calls. They gave us a chance to win the game."
They looked like they were pretty tired, because Arkansas' line looked like they were beating them up pretty good.
"Arkansas has an outstanding defense. It is definitely a tough go when you have to go up against for 60 minutes. But I think we got better at the end of the game. And that tells a lot about this football team. It was hard to lose there at the end, but to come back and have a chance is an accomplishment."
It looks like the young guys make some plays today.
"Yeah, the young guys played well. Antonio Hargro made an outstanding catch on that touchdown. Tee Milons made some good catches. You put those guys in not because it is the end of the game but because they deserved to play. They had taken the strides at practice to be in the game. They got in and made plays and proved their worth."
Did you see the touchdown pass to Ray Ray Bivines developing as he was running down the sideline?
"Yeah, that was a slant and go. They were showing different coverages. I think we had two safeties on that. Basically, I tried to make a quick pump fake and look back over there. I knew I was going to go to the two-receiver side. Ray Ray just popped open. I was just hoping that it was going to get into his hands and it worked out."
That third down ball that you put up there, six guys go for it, did you think it had a chance?
"I tried to throw that ball away and it got up in my hand. That scared me to death because I was not trying to make it a jump ball at all. It just got away from me."
On the fourth down was there just nobody to throw to?
"On the fourth down, I thought I had a running lane. I was concerned the corner was going to come up on the flat route. In hindsight I probably should have thrown the ball."
DS Josh Morgan
It looked like early on they were picking on (true freshman cornerback) Kevin Dockery but he appeared to get better and better as the game went on.
"If you are a cornerback and you get beat, you are calling the next play because if you are getting beat they are going to continue coming at you. That is the way you stop them from coming at you, make a couple of big plays. And he did that as the game went on. He is going to be better and better."
What was the mood of the team after you guys recovered the onside kick?
"The onside kick is the most exciting play in football. The fans that hung in there with us, I'm proud of them. They were loud and helped put up in a position to win the game. We just couldn't pull it out."
What kind of injury do you have?
"I broke my arm. I broke it the first series. I played the first half with it. It kept hurting and hurting. With every little bump I could feel it wiggling on me. I went and got it x-rayed at halftime."
I supposed your season is over with.
"I don't know. I played the first half with it and it hurt me a little bit. We'll see about the Egg Bowl. I want to play. I will do whatever it takes to get on the field."
What can they do that will allow you to play?
"They will try to put a pad on it and keep the contact limited and I guess try and play me in spots."
DE Jason Clark
How big was it not having Mario Haggan in the game?
"It was very big. We saw it in the first drive when they drove down the field running the ball. We told the young guys to go out there and play. If they needed any help we would be there to help them out. I think that Byrdsong and Evans are getting that great experience that will help them next year."
What do you take from the seniors?
"I take leadership from them. We had great leaders in them."
Who will take over the leadership role next year? Will you be one of those?
"Yeah, I am going to step up. One thing I do is leading by actions more than words. I think we will stay on each other to make plays and stay on each other to do what is right. Not only on the field but off the field as well."
What do you think the gameplan will be against Ole Miss?
"They will try and run, but we will try and get pressure on (Eli Manning) and make them get into an one-dimensional game by making them throw. If they want to throw, then we will make them throw."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher and owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial site for Mississippi State sports since October, 1996. He can be reached by email at email@example.com