During August camp Green, a redshirt freshman, developed soreness around the pelvis. He's had a shot for the fluid that's collected there, too. The best cure of course is rest, but that isn't much of an option here in September. In fact Green not only played a lot in the season-opener but he got his first college start in the SELa game. And it was in the opening quarter that he made the first college catch, as QB Wesley Carroll checked-off the initial call and looked for Green down the middle of the field.
Covered, too, with two Lions between the ball and target. But bad hip or not Green was able to jump, snare the catch, turn and ramble another twenty or so yards before being chased down. "I was hurting at the time, but it was a beautiful ball!" he said of the catch. "I knew I wasn't going to score. I just wanted to get as far as I could, so we could score."
Which State did on the next play as HB Anthony Dixon rambled 14 yards for the touchdown. As his coach noted, a healthy Green wouldn't have been caught after that catch, but the man himself has no regrets about missing out on the TD. "I look at it as I did my role. And Dixon got it in, so I felt like we scored as a team."
He feels the same about a cohort doing the tight-end honors of catching a touchdown pass, too. It was senior Austin Wilbanks, not Green, who was rolling open for Carroll to flip the ball to just before halftime.
"It's not frustrating," Green said. "I look up to Austin, because he's helped me out and he's been here longer than I have." Besides, he smiles, "I would have been the third tight end, I'd have been blocking somebody!"
It's easy for Green to shrug off lack of early-season chances to make catches, because he has a lot of year and career ahead. And even if he had no balls thrown to him at Louisiana Tech, he knows his number was initially called three times in the huddle that night. Inability to break clean off-the-line prevented those plays. "And they were playing two-man on me, so it was hard to do that at the same time." But when the hip is feeling right and Green is free to finally run as anticipated?
"I've got something for the world to see!"
REMEMBER WHEN? It's an obvious question now, a year after the fact and with the rematch looming. Still HB Christian Ducre claims he isn't recalling his fourth quarter touchdown that provided Mississippi State's winning points at Auburn last year. "Nah, that's long-gone," he smiles. "I'm thinking about the next touchdown!"
Or getting his first touchdown of this junior season. Ducre hasn't had a lot of chances of course, with 13 carries in the first two games. But when handed the ball Ducre has certainly taken advantage averaging 6.1 yards per-touch. And his average isn't inflated by any one big carry; his longest tote so far is 13 yards. It's simple consistency that makes Ducre such a valuable option in State's play-calling.
Not that starter Anthony Dixon has been any slouch with the pigskin himself; his 4.8-yard average after two games is ahead of his previous pace too. Yet the Bulldog ground game clearly benefits from timely rotations of the two juniors. It's just a slight exaggeration to say Dixon pounds at the defense first, then Ducre gashes them next. Ducre is content with the arrangement as he knows he'll get his touches.
"If I get tired he'll go in; if he gets tired I'll go in. It's whatever the team needs."
State needed Ducre at crunch-time last year at Auburn, and he came through. And the five-yard touchdown was only the second most dramatic play of the go-ahead drive. Facing 3rd-and-12 at the Tiger 25-yard line Ducre turned a basic draw into 18 yards and allowed the offense to play for six instead of kicking for three.
"That was pretty much my first real playing time, playing experience. And that gave me my confidence for the rest of the year and I think I had an alright year." Which was a pretty fair summary of what Mississippi State did the rest of the year, with Auburn the obvious turning-point. "Yeah, that was our first winning season," Ducre said. "And it was our first time to beat a top-25 in like forever. That boosted the whole season."
WHAT BROWN CAN DO: After giving redshirt freshman Jamie Jones the middle linebacker start against Southeastern Louisiana, the Bulldog defensive staff is leaning towards opening with Karlin Brown this time. Brown, a true sophomore, alternated with Jones as planned in the SELa game as both tried to fill the void left by the loss of senior MLB Jamar Chaney to injury for the rest of the season.
Jones had a primary tackle in the game, Brown an assist. Still game review showed Brown executed somewhat more consistently. And, aggressively, noted Coach Sylvester Croom. As he should have. "IT comes from experience," Croom said. "Even though he hadn't had a lot of game experience." Brown played almost all his 2007 snaps on special teams with rare reserve appearances at his defensive position.
Still just that live-time on the field is paying off now for Brown. "He has more confidence in what he's doing, and that makes him a step faster," Croom said. Which must matter because Jones got the majority of #2 snaps at middle LB in both spring and August while Brown has been primarily an outside ‘backer since arrival. Plus, he was suspended for the Louisiana Tech game for class attendance issues.
Both middle-men will play, though, and Jones shouldn't take long to catch up as he gets increasingly comfortable both making plays and making the calls demanded of a MLB. And as Croom repeated, "You're always a step faster when you're playing with confidence."
JUST DON'T DO IT: Mississippi State would seem to have a serious special-teams challenge this week in Auburn ace Robert Dunn. The senior wideout is averaging over 24 yards on every return; not kickoffs, punts. He has a touchdown in the 2008 books already, and his first-half work running back Southern Miss punts for big gains contributed to consistently strong field position.
But Croom claims this is not much of a challenge. Why? "It's real simple: don't kick the ball to the guy!"
Then again that might not be so simple either, as punting has not been a State strength this early season P Blake McAdams did upgrade his average greatly from first game (31.9) to second (43.0). But his hang-time still is coming up short of expectations and coverage has struggled to make up for it. State is allowing over 12 yards per-return through two contests, which can't be encouraging with Dunn coming to town.
"He is dangerous," Croom said. "I make no secret about it, we don't intend for him to touch the ball. We will do a couple of different things." Though he didn't offer what, clearly booting the ball at as much an angle as practical will be one approach, and McAdams has made himself a good directional kicker as shown last season. And coverage will be stressed that much more in this week's practicing.
"Our coverage is going to be tested, our kickers are going to be tested," said Croom, adding, interestingly, "We're going to do everything we can to keep him from cleanly touching the ball."
INJURY UPDATES: As noted, TE Marcus Green was held out with the sore hip. WR Brandon McRae (hamstring) was the only offensive player practicing in limited-yellow but he still participated in all catching drills.
KS Eric Richards (hip tendon) did not report to the Palmeiro Center for practice. Nor did freshman receivers O'Neal Wilder (knee) and Terrance Davis (hamstring).
Mississippi State worked indoors Tuesday following an afternoon shower and with the threat of more rain.