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Monday Morning Coffee Break

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Ole Miss, on Thanksgiving night, hammered the final nail in the coffin of a very disappointing football season.

Because this was the second straight losing season, changes seem to be about to happen within the football program. The most likely scenario appears to be several assistant coaches will not be back next season. There is no point in speculating who they might be. Time will tell us.

Because I know each one of these coaches on a more personal level than most of you, this is a very sad time for me and I write this MMCB with a heavy heart. I truly like each coach on the MSU staff. They are all not only good coaches, but even better people who have represented MSU in the way we can all be proud of. I know in this business the assistant coaches are always the first ones to bear the brunt of a losing season. It may not be right, but that's the way it is done. However, that doesn't make it any easier when you know each one of these men have families to provide for. Sometimes some of us seem to forget when making posts on the message boards that these are real people with real families that they have to provide for.

While I'm optimistic the losing that we have seen the last two years is a thing of the past and good things are ahead for MSU football, the next few days may not be a happy time in Bulldogland, so please be considerate when you post on my message boards. Whatever happens will happen. Our input on the message boards can do nothing but make a trying time more difficult for all involved.

A once friendly rivalry becomes more like a war zone....

With an MSU cheerleader being assaulted by an Ole Miss cheerleader and an MSU assistant coach having to tell the MSU players to put their helmets on because of objects being thrown at them as they attempt to leave the field of play at the end of the game, the Ole Miss/MSU rivalry has gone from a once friendly instate rivalry to one that is filled with extreme hate on both sides.

How it has ever gotten to this point is beyond me. I realize some Ole Miss fans hate MSU head football coach Jackie Sherrill to an extreme never before seen in the history of the MSU/Ole Miss rivalry, but taking it to the extreme seen by MSU fans, coaches and players on Thanksgiving night is difficult for any level-headed person to comprehend.

I realize MSU fans are not innocent by-standers in this situation. Ole Miss fans will very quickly tell you that they experienced similar events when attending last year's Ole Miss/MSU game in Starkville. I don't doubt that some did.

Hopefully, when MSU's new permanent president comes aboard within the next few months, he can help bring a level head and, more importantly, a strong personality to this situation and help lead this rivalry back to where it should be.


On a much more positive note, the basketball team continues to play well after opening the season with a loss to Louisiana-Lafayette. Seemingly adjusting to playing without Mario, players such as junior Timmy Bowers and senior Derrick Zimmerman are stepping forward and leading the team. Combined, they are scoring a little over 34 points per game. They have also had a total of 20 steals. Defensively, there are probably very few in college basketball that are the equal of these two.

Those players aren't the only ones stepping up.

Although he is just a sophomore, Winsome Frazier is also contributing very productive minutes. Through the first three games, he has averaged 11.7 points per game while playing 17.7 minutes. As coach Stansbury continues to say in his postgame press conferences, Frazier's piece of the MSU team puzzle is instant offense. Making 5 of 11 three-pointers (.455) and 12 of 22 from the field overall (.545), he is definitely providing that. Something else that impresses me is he has turned the ball over just once in the 53 minutes that he has played. I've heard from a friend of mine that the MSU coaches are extremely excited about the long-term potential of Winsome. I see why. He could wind up being really special before he leaves Starkville.

Junior college transfer Branden Vincent has offered the toughness that MSU lost when Michael Gholar used up his eligibility last year. A very good defensive player, Branden has also been a warrior on the board - just like Gholar was - averaging 7.0 boards per game while playing 25 minutes per game. Although he hasn't shot the ball that often - 17 times in the first three games - he obviously has some guick moves around the basket.

True freshman point guard Stephen Cowherd seems to be improving each game. After missing quite a bit of preseason practice, Stephen had his best game against Jacksonville, scoring 9 points in 17 minutes of play. Prior to that game, he had scored 1 point in 18 minutes during the first two games. His main value, however, will be to rest Zimmerman, all the while keeping the score margin about the same while Zim is out.

Two players who appear to be struggling are Ontario Harper and Michal Ignerski. More than likely, they feel the absence of Mario and are putting too much pressure on themselves trying to take up the slack. Both have struggled shooting the ball, although Iggy is rebounding better than last season - 6.0 to 3.3. When Mario comes back, MSU will be able to play better against the zone defense, allowing both to have better shot selections.

The wild card on this team has been sophomore man-child Marcus Campbell. With the most offensive talent of any true center that MSU has ever had, Marcus has been up and down, mostly down, during the first three games. Averaging about a foul every 2 minutes, Marcus continues to get into foul trouble early. After playing just 16 minutes in the first two game, Marcus played 20 minutes against Jacksonville. Showing what he could do offensively if he played within himself on defense and didn't commit the silly fouls, Marcus was 6 of 8 from the field and 2 of 3 from the free throw line. As coach Stansbury continues to state, Marcus, when he plays with effort every game and every play, can be a very, very good player. There are very few big men with the offensive skills and overall basketball skills of Marcus.

MSU's next game is Monday night against Alabama A&M. They continue home play with games against Jackson State Wednesday and Louisiana Tech Saturday. See you at the Hump!

Mario Austin

It appears the NCAA is getting closer to settling the Mario Austin case. According to what I have heard, the next NCAA committee will be looking at Mario's case in the next few days. Now, what they will decide I can't answer. Hopefully, they will come to their senses and rule that Mario is eligible.

Stay tuned.....

Well, that wraps up this week's edition of the Monday Morning Bulldog Coffee Break.

Have a great Bulldog week!

Gene Swindoll

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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 swindoll@genespage.com.

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