The Bulldogs worked today in shells, and will do that again Monday before working in sweats the rest of the week. Which makes setting a tone these first two sessions critical, and tricky.
"We'll see if we can get fine-tuned and get them ready," Croom said. "We've really got to get our minds right and ready to play a physical football game, because this is a very, very physical team that we're playing. They're playing well, they just had a big win, and I think they're probably playing as good as anybody in the conference right now. So we've got to be ready to play the best game we've played all year."
State is coming off a best-game, the 31-28 win at Scott Field with the season's best offensive output in yards and most points against a league opponent. The Bulldogs responded to two quick Arkansas touchdowns by scoring on three consecutive possessions, and led 31-21 late in the fourth period. If not for a handful of ill-timed penalties, the last half would have been a MSU rout. The Razorbacks took advantage of their breaks and State avoided overtime only when a last-shot field goal sailed wide.
The victory does assure Mississippi State will not finish last in the SEC's Western Division. This is far from what the Bulldogs expected of the 2008 season, coming off their 2007 successes and Liberty Bowl victory. Still the head coach presents this season's finale as an opportunity for the players to enjoy more late-year success and score the sort of pride points that only come from a rivalry win. As to critiques and complaints how the overall year has gone, that's all set aside for this week.
"It's Ole Miss," Croom said. "It isn't any different from any other year. You want to win this game. As far as criticism goes, it comes with the territory. I want to beat Ole Miss."
Three defensive starters were held out of Sunday's practice; S Keith Fitzhugh (foot), LB Bo Walters (shoulder nerve), and CB Jasper O'Quinn (back). "Those guys are day by day right now," Croom said.
QB Tyson Lee was wearing a splint on a finger of his throwing hand, the same digit first hurt when he hit a helmet in the Kentucky game. He said he will wear the protection a day or two more just in case, while the swelling goes down. "It didn't have any effect on me throwing yesterday, I guess the adrenalin kind of overrode the pain." Lee was 23-of-40 passing for 219 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions.
QB Wesley Carroll was excused Sunday to work on a class project. So backup Chris Relf got more work than usual with the first offense in Carroll's absence.
Croom also announced that the permanent 2008 team captains were elected today. QB Tyson Lee represents the offense, LB Dominic Douglas the defense, and DE Tim Bailey the special teams.