M&F Bank Bulldog Scouting Report

The Game: Mississippi State (1-2, 0-1 SEC) ventures into ACC country for an inter-league contest with Georgia Tech (2-1, 1-1) in Atlanta. Kickoff at Grant Field is noon local time with regional telecast by Raycom through ACC affiliates. The Bulldog broadcast is available on XM channel 200.

*Both Mississippi State and Georgia Tech were charter members of the original 13-school Southeastern Conference, founded in 1932-33. Yet they never played each other in football while Tech was in the league. They left after the 1963 season, with five sole or shared league titles.

*Grant Field is the oldest active home-field facility in Division IA football, opening in 1913. The second oldest is Mississippi State's Scott Field, first used in 1914.

About the Yellow Jackets: Maybe it was fated for Paul Johnson to find the right BCS league job at Georgia Tech. After all, he was the 2004 Bobby Dodd National Coach of the Year at Navy, the program Johnson built into winner with five bowl bids in his six seasons. Well, all his years at Georgia Southern as first coordinator then head coach had something to do with it, too. And that's where Johnson developed the option-based offense that so frustrated Navy opponents, and has been transplanted faster than anyone could have expected in Atlanta. The Jackets are leading the ACC in rushing and are 4th in the league in total offense. And Johnson is the first Tech coach to win his ACC opener with the comeback two weeks ago against Boston College. If they've done all this in less than a year with the new boss, what can Johnson's Jackets do to the ACC in seasons to come?

Offense: Judging three-game trends is risky, but Georgia Tech's philosophy is reasonably clear based on this: the Yellow Jackets are 9th in the country in rushing yards, and 113th in passing yards. Just don't take this to mean soph QB Josh Nesbitt can't or won't throw the ball. In fact the offensive scheme sets up receivers nicely when defenses focus entirely on what's happing along the line of scrimmage. The key isn't the 269 passing yards so far, it's the nearly 17 yards gained per catch. That's a measure of just how obsessed opponents are with chasing a talented group of runners around, starting with the triggerman. Nesbitt is coming off a school-record rushing day for a Tech quarterback with 151 yards at Virginia Tech, and has four touchdowns already. Take the quarterback and B-back Jonathan Dwyer gets the pitch; they are netting 170 yards combined out of the option. And that doesn't account for Lucas Cox, who has made a move from B to A-back work quite nicely by gaining a startling 12 yards each touch. This isn't your father's wishbone, though, because Tech gets as much or more yards off the lead-dive and quarterback keeper between the tackles at a rate of 5.8 yards each rush. But there might be some truth to the old joke about receivers leaving a option-offense's huddle doing backsprings because a pass has been called. Demayrius Thomas and Tyler Melton may only have five grabs each through three games, but they're good for 13 and 11 yards when they do pull in a pass. The real threat is A-back Roddy Jones zipping out of the backfield; his three grabs have produced 91 yards and a touchdown. If the offense runs towards the left, no surprise. Not with all-American candidate Andrew Gardner at that tackle slot. Just like State, Tech has a converted guard at center in junior Dan Voss. The front averages a healthy 294 pounds and, on the youngest overall roster in the ACC, has two seniors and a pair of juniors starting. It's been a boffo start for this offense, with only a tendency to turnovers (11 fumbles, seven lost) to worry about. That will be fixed with more experienced in the fast-paced system.

Defense: It's generally the standard 4-3 scheme here, and with good reason. This even-front will be as experienced and active as anything State will face in the SEC West. Certainly All-American Darryl Richard and fellow senior Vance Walker ought to be the best tackle-tandem in their league. Both top 290 pounds and rank 5th and 8th respectively in active ACC tackles-for-loss with 48 between them, not to mention 20.5 combined sacks; a category Tech led the nation in for 2007. Their presence in the middle ought to set up Michael Johnson for a huge year at one end; he's only been on this spot four games but is touted as a Hendricks Award nominee already. There been some rebuilding required at the linebacking spots for both graduation and current injuries. But redshirt freshman Kyle Jackson has emerged pretty darn quickly at MLB; he had 13 stops against Virginia Tech and is tied for the team lead with 27 tackles. Veterans senior Tony Clark and junior Sedric Griffin have moved into starting jobs the last two weeks, with season-opening starter Anthony Barnes expected back from injury. Jahi Word-Daniels is the elder of the secondary and has one corner locked down; soph Mario Butler has won the battle on the other side and got his first career pick against B.C. Strong safety Morgan Burnett has built on a strong rookie year with a great start to this soph season. In the last two games he's posted 10 and 13 tackles, and he opened the campaign with two interceptions against Jacksonville State. What Tech still has to fix is a tendency on both sides for penalties, where they surrender almost 60 free yards per weekend.

Specialists: It's getting annoyingly familiar, but for yet another week State has to deal with superior punting and coverage. If it bothered Scott Blair having to step in for the school's record-setter, he hasn't shown it. Just the opposite, Blair is averaging 45.1 yards though he's only had to kick it away seven times in three games. Blair also does the placekick honors, but has made just two of six field goals and missed all three tries beyond 38 yards. It's not lack of leg-strength though as his typical kickoff goes over 63 yards. Tyler Melton nets 7.8 yards returning punts, while the dangerous Dwyer fields kickoffs and is a threat to take it all the way.

The Series: Georgia Tech won the only two meetings of these programs; 23-0 in 1980, and 27-13 in 1929. Both games were played in Atlanta, when the schools were part of the old Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association.

The Last Time: Sorry, no info beyond the final score. Even Jack Cristil never saw a SIAA game.

Bulldog Player Notes: *Senior P Blake McAdams is the most prolific punter in MSU history. His 234 kicks and 9,246 yards are both Bulldog records, and he now ranks 10th and 12th in SEC annals in those categories. He has booted balls for 5.25 miles in his MSU career.

*Only two of McAdams' 10 punts against Auburn were returned. In fact through three games only three of his kicks have come back, and for a total of 30 yards. He has put six kicks inside the 20-yard lines.

*In the first two games, the Bulldog defense recovered just two of six opposing fumbles. Against Auburn they recovered all three Tiger fumbles.

*His season ended in the opening game by a fracture, senior MLB Jamar Chaney has watched teammates and classmates wear his #22 the past two Saturdays. It was S Keith Fitzhugh (SELa) and WLB Dominic Douglas (Auburn) donning the digits at the home games.

*Fitzhugh is the active leader in interceptions with six. He picked a pair of passes against Louisiana Tech. But, those are the only interceptions State has through three games.

*What this defense is doing well is breaking up passes, with 18 through three games compared to seven for the opposition. Senior DT Jessie Bowman had four rejections himself in the SELa game.

*Douglas didn't just put on Chaney's number Saturday; he has picked up a lot of the tackling slack as well. Through three games he has 21 credited stops.

*Bowman netted 3.5 tackles for losses against Auburn, which ties him with soph LB K.J. Wright for second on the team. Senior DE Tim Bailey tops the list this week with 4.0 total TFLs.

*The six sacks recorded by State so far have all been by different defenders. The latest to join the list is DT Kyle Love.

*Junior CB Tay Bowser deflected an Auburn kick in the third quarter, his second block of this season after he got a PAT at Louisiana Tech.

*DE Sean Ferguson is the first true freshman to start on State's defense in five years, and has opened all three games at left end.

*Senior S Derek Pegues got off to a slow statistical start, suspended for the opener and limited to two tackles against SELa. But he came to play Saturday with seven total stops against Auburn, and recovered a fumble. And if the throw had been a bit lower, Pegues would have picked a fourth-quarter pass with an excellent chance to add to his touchdown-return total of three. Which is the MSU career record.

*Pegues has ten career interceptions and is tied for 5th on the State list with Frank Dowsing, Steve Freeman, and Fred Smoot. His average return of 21.8 yards though is the best of any Bulldog ever.

*Pegues has returned 61 punts in four seasons, which ranks him third on the MSU chart. His 671 yards is fourth-most in program history and he has an average gain of 11.0 yards.

*The records he does hold now are for both kickoffs returned (85) and yards (1,876). He just surpassed Tony James' mark of 1,862.

*A groin strain in practice cramped HB Anthony Dixon's style in the Auburn game, as he struggled on seven carries for just four net yards. His previous career-low yards had been 13 as a freshman against Tulane; and low carries six against Jacksonville State that same season.

*Before Auburn, Dixon had ground out 171 yards in two games on 36 carries, 4.8 per touch.

*So Dixon barely made progress to the 2,000-yard mark. He now has 1,910 in three seasons and ranks 10th on the career list. He began the year 15th. But Dixon has not had a 100-yard output since last year at Kentucky. He has six 100-yard games.

*Dixon remains tied for first place in MSU career touchdowns, even with Michael Davis (1991-94) at 27. Dixon has 25 rushing scores and two receiving TDs, while all 27 of Davis' scores came on the ground.

*Dixon is second only to Davis in rushing touchdowns.

*Dixon's 162 career points stand 6th on the MSU list.

*By going 10-of-25 passing against Auburn, QB Wesley Carroll's season percentage is one catch over break-even, 37-of-73. He has thrown three touchdowns against four interceptions this year, but is still in positive career territory with 12 touchdowns and 11 picks.

*Carroll averaged 14.3 yards per completion at Ruston; it was 10.5 against SELa, and 7.8 against Auburn. For his career his typical caught ball has netted 10.5 yards.

*Carroll now has thrown for 1,800 career yards even. He needs 2,940 to break the MSU top-ten. The MSU record is 6,336 by Wayne Madkin.

*Of Carroll's dozen touchdown passes, seven have gone to wide receivers, three to tight ends, and two to halfbacks.

*HB Christian Ducre assumed Dixon's job earlier and more often than usual in the Auburn game and managed 49 yards on 16 totes. That average of 3.1 was below his typical gain per-carry, which is actually better than Dixon's for two years: 4.2 to 3.8.

*Until he let a Tiger defender out-fight him for a deep ball, WR Brandon McRae was having an excellent junior season. A two-catch, 15-yard night cut into his average but McRae is still netting double-digits on receptions overall at 147 yards on 14 catches. As a soph he only had two receptions and 50 yards all year.

*McRae isn't the only wideout with double-figure catches. Senior Aubrey Bell is up to 10 receptions and 106 yards. And while he's just made seven grabs in three games, senior Co-Eric Riley got half of them last week. All three are netting over ten yards each time they snare a pass.

*Those receptions have been at the expense of senior Jamayel Smith who only has two catches and ten yards so far. Where last year he caught 33 balls for a team-best 510 yards.

*Since making five catches for 63 yards in the opening game, freshman Delmon Robinson has barely seen the field and not made a reception. The coaching staff is looking to correct this oversight.

*The absence of TE Marcus Green with a hip injury contributed to nobody at his position catching a ball against Auburn. Nor did the tight ends make receptions at Louisiana Tech. Yet in the Southeastern Louisiana game Green had the longest grab, 50 yards; and TE Austin Wilbanks the shortest, a one-yard touchdown.

*After hitting his last seven field goals of the 2007 season, over a ten-game stretch, and his first try against SELa, PK Adam Carlson has missed consecutive attempts, both in the 30s-yard range. Carlson is now 20-of-33 for his career. On PATs he is 73-of-74 in four seasons with a 26-make streak ongoing.

*Carlson is now 9th in field goal attempts at State. He needs to make three more to move into that top-ten. Carlson needs one more PAT to tie for third with Bob Morgan (1980-82) on the career list. The record is 89 by Brian Hazelwood.

*Six true freshmen have played so far this season. Two, DE Sean Ferguson and TE Nelson Hurst, have starts to their credit. Their four activated classmates are S Charles Mitchell, WR Delmon Robinson, LB Bo Walters, and DT Joshua Jackson.

*First-year frosh who have yet to play are: WR Arceto Clark, WR Terrance Davis, DB Louis Watson, CB Corey Broomfield, RB T.J. Patterson, DE Nick Bell, LB Mike Hunt, DE Trevor Stigers, DT Devin Jones, OG Tobias Smith, OT Templeton Hardy, WR O'Neal Wilder, WR Charles Bailey, TE Kendrick Cook, and DE Shane McCardell.

*P McAdams leads this team in career starts (39). OG Anthony Strauder leads the non-specialists in starts with 33.

*S Keith Fitzhugh, P Blake McAdams, LB Anthony Littlejohn, and S De'Mon Glanton all share the games-played lead with 39 apiece.


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