"I Know One Program That's On The Rise"

"What a great day! It's great for our program, to send these seniors out. My first team meeting was January 9, I walked into a team meeting room full of hungry guys. We said to our seniors it's your last opportunity to play here at Mississippi State and what is your legacy going to be?"

"Those seniors persevered playing one of the toughest schedules in the country, they never stopped fighting, never stopped battling, and I can't be prouder for a group of people that get to walk off this field and finish their career champions. For the rest of their lives they get to finish their career champions. I couldn't be prouder for a bunch of guys. Jamar Chaney, Anthony Dixon, all of those guys, just an amazing feeling for us and for this program and the foundation those seniors have left us now for the future."

Q: Can you summarize what you told the crowd after the win? "I just thanked the crowd. Someone said we set the attendance record by over 70,000 for the season. I thanked our crowd for the support they've shown this program. And, also to show this program is certainly on the rise. Maybe to the contrary of what other people are saying in this state, I know one program that's certainly on the rise. And that's right here in Starkville."

Q: Did you plan to play Chris Relf as you did or was it by feel? "It is kind of by feel. We were going back-and-forth there and then Chris kind of got it rolling. And once he got it rolling and got a little feel for what was going on we were able to run the football. They had eleven guys on the line of scrimmage and we're still able to run the football. When Chris got into that flow we just decided to stick with him right there and keep trying to grind it out."

Q: How much of the spread comes from wishbone principles? "There's some similarities to it. A lot of it is it gives you the opportunity to run option football, and have to account for the quarterback within the game. So that's one of the similarities to the wishbone. And I think one of the things people keep confusing with Chris, when he was in a flow it was in a flow of the reads in the run-game. He was real comfortable when he was keeping the ball, when he was handing it off, when he was pitching it. He got in that flow and that's why we stuck with him."

Q: This was a big day for the seniors, but what does this mean for the underclassmen? "Well, it's huge for us for the future. This program, I think we only had 12 seniors when I took over and a couple of guys earned scholarships to get on there. We have a young program, our coaches are going to work hard and we're going to go recruit the state of Mississippi hard. What's great is you see all these kids out here making plays for us on the field; young kids know they can come here and they're going to play early in their career, they're can represent the state of Mississippi and these great fans, and they're going to play in front of sold-out stadiums and big-time atmospheres every single week here in Starkville."

Q: Can you walk us through what you saw on Chad Bumphis' catch on fourth down? "I was hoping to get more on third down and maybe give Derek another chance at another long field goal! The good thing, Les Koenning didn't hesitate, he called the play before I could almost say field goal or go for it. He went for it, and did a nice job.

And Chris did a nice job. That's not his first read, he bought some time in the pocket and saw Chad open; Chad makes a great catch and a great finish to a run."

Q: What were the thoughts at halftime down 13-10? "We'd given up a couple of big plays on that last drive, that was frustrating. We told them at halftime we have the countdown clock in the locker room that counts down to this game and for over 300 days they've put in the effort to get to this game; and now all they had left was 30 minutes. So why not give everything they had, every single play? Leave it all on the field. And if you believe in each other, in the guy next to you, we're going to make every play in that second half. And we almost made every single play in that second half. They said make every play this second half, do it for the guy next to you. Know what? I'm proud of this team, because they did."

Q: In the third quarter was there any hesitation about giving Derek the long field goal try? "No, I felt pretty good. He and Sean (Brauchle) both had a good week at practice. I wanted to boost their confidence, we had a windy day or two and I let them kick with the wind at their back and I let them go back pretty far. And we hit a couple of them, so I think he had some confidence. And he made it with a little room to spare. But I think that was about the max that we would have gone with him. And it was his best kick of the year so far."

Q: Except for one big catch Dexter McCluster didn't break any really big plays? "That was a big part of our gameplan, really trying to contain him. I don't know that we did anything special, we just really made an emphasis all week of everybody being sound, being in their gaps and forcing him to go side-to-side. And when he did someone turn him back in because everybody else is going to come running to the ball. And we were really able to do that."

"When you play real hard and run to the ball good things happen to you. We got out of position a couple of times in the secondary but our young guys came back to make plays. And there were a couple of balls tipped and we had a lot of guys run on the ball. It's not a lot of luck involved, when you run to the football and play hard throughout the play usually good things happen to you."

Q: How special was it for Anthony Dixon to cap his career like this? "Well, I mean it's huge. I think he holds the career rushing record, the single season rushing record, the single game rushing record at Mississippi State. I saw yesterday he was leading the SEC (per-game rushing); I know everybody talks about Heisman Trophies, he's leading the SEC on a team that plays the toughest schedule in the country. I haven't heard many people mention his name for a lot of awards, but I think it's really special for him to leave that way; to leave a winner, to leave a champion in this program, and I'm really proud of everything he's done. And I know he'll have a great football career ahead of him, but I'm proud for everything he's done for us here at Mississippi State."

Q: At the end of the game did it cross your mind to score one more touchdown? "Oh, it crossed my mind to go get that trophy in my hand as soon as possible! So I wanted to make sure we took a knee and got that clock running as fast as possible."

Gene's Page Top Stories