Croom plays 'no-respect' card

Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom didn't take long to play the no-respect card.

During his Monday press conference about the Tennessee game, Croom said his team, a touchdown underdog, would be given no chance to win.

``Nobody will give our players a chance to win this football game,'' Croom said. ``I know that. Because of our past and what we've done, we won't win.

``Well, we weren't supposed to beat Auburn (in September) and we weren't supposed to beat Alabama last year. That's what some fans said.

``I don't want our players listening to that.

``Our players have as much chance to beat Tennessee as Stanford had of beating Southern Cal.''

Actually, the Bulldogs have a much better chance, if you go by oddsmakers.

Stanford was a 40-point underdog. It was the biggest upset – point-spread wise – in history, according to Las Vegas.

A Mississippi State win over Tennessee wouldn't come close to qualifying. Not only is UT just a touchdown favorite, but the Vols are unranked in the coaches' poll and lost 59-20 to Florida while Southern Cal was undefeated and ranked No. 2, having won all 35 in a row at home.

Moreover, the Bulldogs won at Auburn on Sept. 15.

Yes, State lost 45-0 to LSU in the season opener, but this isn't the same Bulldogs' team. They are 4-2 – the most wins Croom has had in a season. State won three games in each of Croom's first three years, winning just four SEC games during that time.

Mississippi State's goal this season is to become bowl eligible. That means six wins. That means the Bulldogs will have to upset at least one team down the stretch.

State plays Tennessee, at West Virginia, at Kentucky, Alabama, at Arkansas and Ole Miss during the second half of the season. It will be an underdog in at least five of those games.

A win at Tennessee would make State an odds-on favorite to win six.

While Croom says no one will give his team a chance to beat the might Vols, he did say Tennessee is beatable.

``I say that because I think everybody is beatable now,'' Croom said. ``I'm not trying to slight Tennessee by any stretch of the imagination. But just look at what's happened this year. There's parity all over the country. Anybody can beat anybody. That's the thing I want our players to understand.''


Croom lit a fire under Tennessee's players with a comment he made after the Bulldogs ran for 165 yards in a win last Saturday over UAB.

``Tennessee knows we're going to run the football,'' Croom told the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. ``Clear and simple. That's the way we're going to start the football game. So they better get nine of ‘em at the line of scrimmage.''

Tennessee linebacker Jerod Mayo read the quote on UT's bulletin board.

``I heard what he said,'' Mayo said. ``Put nine in the box. They challenged our manhood, saying they're going to run the football, we better put nine people in the box. … You definitely have to get up for things like that, being a competitor such as myself and the rest of my teammates.''

Secondary coach Larry Slade said Croom might be trying to dupe UT into thinking only about the run, then throw a pass over the defensive backs' heads.


Tennessee has four scholarship players from Mississippi: starting center Josh McNeil, defensive end Xavier Mitchell, defensive tackle Victor Thomas and receiver Casey Woods, who lived in Starkville when his father (Sparky) was a State assistant.

State has two players from the state of Tennessee: punter Blake McAdams, whose father played at Tennessee, and defensive back Wade Bonner of Memphis. McAdams is from Ripley and played in high school with UT starting tackle Ramon Foster.

McAdams wanted to play at UT but the Vols didn't offer, even though he was a great all-around athlete.

McAdams passed for 4,241 yards and ran for 1,751 yards while accounting for 61 touchdowns at Ripley High School. He made all-state as a defensive back, where he had eight interceptions.

He was a star baseball player who played one season at State before concentrating on football. He regretted that decision when the Bulldogs reached the College World Series this past season.

McAdams saw his average dip from 41.9 as a freshman to 38.2, but it's back up to 40.8 this season.


Mississippi State is a young team with just nine fifth-year seniors.

They call themselves the ``last of the Sherill boys,'' having been recruited by former coach Jackie Sherrill, who left the program in shambles with NCAA sanctions and scholarship limitations.

The key seniors in Sherrill's last recruiting class are defensive end Titus Brown, cornerback Demario Bobo, center Royce Blackledge and tight end Eric Butler.

``Not to dismiss the previous class, but this senior class has been outstanding,'' Croom said. ``I heard one of them the other night on TV and I was very impressed. He said the teams that win, the seniors, regardless of whether they're third or fourth string or even play, their senior year they play their best football. And that's what we've got. That's why we're having some degree of success.''

Croom is also pleased that these seniors are 4-2 with a legitimate chance of becoming bowl eligible.

``For these guys, it's a ray of sunshine,'' Croom said. ``They've never been in this position before. They've never been in the position before where at the halfway point during the season they have a realistic goal of having a chance to become bowl eligible. And that's a strong motivation for those guys.''


The State staff has two former members of the Tennessee staff. Bulldogs offensive coordinator Woody McCorvey (1999-2003) and receivers coach Pat Washington (1995-2005) both worked for UT's Phillip Fulmer.

Croom said he thought that would help State prepare for Tennessee.

EXTRA POINTS: State has not opened with a 5-2 record since 2000. … In the last meeting between these schools, Tennessee won 59-21 behind Casey Clausen's five touchdown passes. … State is 3-13 in its last 16 games against East Division teams. … The series is tied 4-4 in Starkville. The Vols won 38-10 in 1987, 40-7 in 1990 and 35-17 in 2002. They lost 24-21 in 1994 by having a turnover on the last five possessions in a game in which Todd Helton injured his knee and gave way as a starter to Peyton Manning.

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