Thursday Bulldog Football Notebook

Bulldog football fans wouldn't have believed their ears. There was the head coach leaving the Palmeiro Center humming…'Rocky Top'? It was only natural, as for most the previous hour that and other game-day tunes played at Tennessee home games were being played—loudly—during Mississippi State's final full practice of game week.

Not that Croom needed further familiarization with Tennessee's famed fight song. "Oh, I've listed to it hundreds of times over the years," he said. But this weekend will be the first time in over two decades Mississippi State's coach will have heard it from the visiting sideline, with his own football team taking on the host Volunteers. If only the Bulldogs can pick up where Croom left off back when he was with Alabama.

"In fact we beat them eleven-straight years when I was there," Croom recalls. "Eleven straight, as a player and as a coach." When Croom was varsity center for the Crimson Tide he won on trips as a sophomore and senior. No wonder ‘Rocky Top' sounds just fine to him. "It's a fun place to play and I love playing up there." Obviously, given that unblemished experience in Neyland Stadium. Well, almost unblemished. "We did lose as a freshman team, but that don't count!"

*This weekend certainly counts for Mississippi State. They go into the second half of the season a disappointing 2-4, 1-2 SEC, but are coming off a home win over then-#13 Vanderbilt. In fact the Bulldogs are choosing to see their 34-24 loss at then-#5 LSU as something of a turning point, followed by last Saturday's success. Croom credits the improved play in the last two SEC contests to better practice habits and efforts since the team returned from a thumping at Georgia Tech.

He's seen nothing the last four working days to spoil the upbeat evaluations, either. "We practiced good again this week. I think we're ready to go, we just have to get it to the game. We've practiced well, we've prepared well, and I think they've prepared well away from the field as well. It appears that they've done a lot of film study on their own. So I think we're ready to go."

Judging by an energetic, and playful, pre-practice mood, the coaches are ready to go as well. In fact before drills began Croom played some 'receiver' with the tight ends, demonstrating to 'quarterback' Kendrick Cook how to catch and protect a timing-throw in the corner of the end zone. But when he bobbled one toss, WR Brandon McRae called out that he owed ten 'up-downs' for dropping an easy pass.

*After today's practice, defensive coordinator Charlie Harbison was presented with the U.S. flag that flew over the military base in Iraq where his son Masai is stationed. Masai, a sergeant in the U.S. Army, taped introductory comments used prior to the Vanderbilt game.

*No Bulldogs who participated in the Vanderbilt game are expected to miss this weekend's game for injury or illness. HB Anthony Dixon was somewhat limited in practices this week, but only as a precaution.

*HB Robert Elliot is re-habbing after having the first of two operations to left-knee ligaments damaged at the LSU game. Leaving the Shira Complex today, Elliot told media members he passed by that he was feeling good and optimistic about his eventual return. He said the second operation will be in December, which will prevent him from participating in spring practices.

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