A look at the Bulldogs

Regardless of the records of the two teams, the Ole Miss-Mississippi State Egg Bowl matchup is always a heated game due to the rivalry developed through the years. Neither team will want to end the 2005 season with a losing taste in their mouths.

Mississippi State University was founded on February 28, 1878, as the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Mississippi and located in Starkville.

They played their first football game in 1895, losing to Union University 21-0. That same year they chose the colors of maroon and white but had no mascot name. Football was so bad their first two season, they did not score a point, so football was dropped between 1897 and 1900. A new team was formed in 1901 under the mascot name of Aggies. The Aggies won their first game over Ole Miss 17-0 in Starkville, and the rivalry began.

Mississippi State dominated this heated rivalry early on, in fact they won fourteen straight games over the Flood between 1911 and 1926. Ole Miss broke the streak in 1926, at Starkville with a 7-6 win over the Aggies, Flood fans tried storming the field to tear down the goal posts and a brawl broke out. The two schools decided to adopt a trophy the winner would display until the next meeting, thus began the Egg Bowl Trophy. Ole Miss has dominated Mississippi State since the first Egg Bowl in 1927, winning 50, losing 20 and tying 5.

The Aggies chose a new mascot name in 1940, becoming the Mississippi State Maroons. This lasted until 1961, when they chose to play under the nickname of Bulldogs. The combined record of the Aggies, Maroons and Bulldogs is 469 wins, 505 losses and 39 ties. They have won no national championships and one SEC Championship way back in 1941. MSU has had 38 players designated All-Americans in college football.

The Bulldogs play in Davis Wade Stadium, Scott Field. The stadium was initially built in 1924, and is the second oldest stadium in Division One football. The capacity today is 55,082. MSU has never had an undefeated-untied season, the closest was 1940, when the Maroons went 10-0-1.

Mississippi State enters this week's Egg Bowl game with a 2-8 record, 0-7 in the SEC. State opened the season with a win at home over Murray State 38-6, then lost at Auburn 28-0. The Bulldogs won over Tulane 21-14 and have since lost seven straight games, including Georgia 23-10, LSU 51-0, Florida 35-9, Houston for homecoming 28-16, Kentucky 13-7, Alabama 17-0 and last Saturday at Arkansas 44-10. In common opponents with Ole Miss, MSU is 0-5 while the Rebels are 1-4. Ole Miss beat Kentucky 13-7.

This will be the 102nd meeting between Ole Miss and Mississippi State and the 78th game played as the Egg Bowl. Ole Miss leads the overall series 58-37-6. In games played in Starkville, the Rebels lead the series 20-9-3. 74% of the time, the team leading at halftime has gone on to win the game. Last year in Oxford, the Rebels won 20-3.

Head coach of the Mississippi State Bulldogs is Sylvester Croom. Croom, in his second season, has a record of 5-15 and is 0-1 versus Ole Miss.

The week after the Alabama loss, Croom predicted MSU would "beat Ole Miss' butt."

Croom played and later coached under Bear Bryant at Alabama. He coached in the pros at Tampa Bay, San Diego, Indianapolis, Detroit and Green Bay before taking over the Bulldog program.

Statistically, the Bulldogs and Rebels are evenly matched. Both teams have trouble scoring points and both teams have trouble stopping their opponents on third down. Mississippi State has given up 36 quarterback sacks on the season and the Bulldogs have the SEC's best pass rusher, Willie Evans, who has 13 sacks.

Offensively, the Bulldogs are a 2-back set team with Jerrious Norwood as their featured running back. State's offensive coordinator-quarterbacks coach is Woody McCorvey, a 1972 graduate of Alabama State where he played QB. McCorvey coached at Clemson, Alabama, South Carolina and Tennessee prior to joining Croom at State.

MSU will likely start 2 seniors, 2 juniors, 2 sophomores, 3 redshirt freshmen and 2 true freshmen on offense. The Bulldogs offensive line averages 311 per man. Their run-pass ratio is about five runs for every four passes. Key MSU offensive players include:

- QB 7 Michael Henig, rFr., 6-0, 175 - 49-of-115 for 516y, 42.6%, 0 tds, 4 int, his net rushing is (-86) yards

- QB 14 Omar Conner, Jr., 6-0, 220 - 86-of-167 for 903y, 51.5%, 8 tds, 5 int, played WR at Arkansas

- TB 12 Jerrious Norwood, Sr., 6-0, 205 - 157 carries, 932 yards, 5.9 average, caught 18 passes for 91 yards

- FB 41 Bryson Davis, Jr., 6-1, 265 - 5r-9 - 1.8 ave, caught 11 for 71 yards

- FL 11 Will Prosser, Jr., 6-3, 205 - 28 receptions, 286 yards, 10.2 average per catch

- SE 19 Tee Milons, Sr., 5-9, 171 - 18 receptions, 214 yards, 11.9 average per catch

- C 50 Chris McNeil, Sr., 6-4, 295 - Won the Bulldog Award in the Spring.

Defensively, Mississippi State is a 4-3-4 team. Their defensive coordinator-defensive backs coach is Ellis Johnson, a 1975 graduate of The Citadel where he played defensive end. Johnson coached at East Carolina, Southern Miss, Alabama, Clemson and The Citadel prior to coming to MSU. State will likely start 2 seniors, 5 juniors, 3 sophomores and 1 true freshman. The Bulldogs' defensive line averages 275 pounds per man, their linebackers 222 and defensive backs 193. The Dogs' defense has 26 sacks and eight interceptions. Key defensive players include:

- MLB 2 Quetin Culberson, Jr. 6-2, 220 - 46 solo + 26 assist, 72 total tackles

- FS 34 Jermaine Johnson, Jr. 5-11, 210 - 44 solo + 19 assist, 63 total

- LE 36 Willie Evans, Sr., 6-2, 270 - 37 solo + 16 assist, 53 total, 13 sacks is best in SEC

- LC 4 Kevin Dockery, Sr., 5-9, 185 - 33 solo + 16 assist, 49 total

- SLB 29 Clarence McDougal, Sr., 6-0, 220 - 31 solo + 17 assist, 48 total tackles.

Key special teams players for MSU include:

Punter - # 43 Blake McAdams, Fr. - 65 punts, 42.0 average

Punt Returns - # 10 Jonathan Lowe, So. - 5.3 average per return, Norwood and Pegues could return punts

Place Kicker - # 37 Adam Carlson, rFr. - 2-3 FG, 2-2 PAT

KO Returns - # 3 Derek Pegues, Fr. - 28 returns, 20.0 average, long 51 yards.

THOUGHTS: This will be an emotional game as all Egg Bowls are. The Rebels need to score early and take the home crowd out of the game. The Rebels cannot let the Bulldogs hang around and build momentum. The Rebels must contain Norwood and get pressure on Henig. Ole Miss' special teams must play better.

Whatever the outcome, look for this to be a better-than-average football game despite the records of the two teams. The intensity level will be high.

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