A 24 year hiatus: Remembering the last time MSU and USM played

In 1990, the big story of the year in Mississippi football was the gunslingin’ senior quarterback down in Hattiesburg at Southern Mississippi. His name was Brett Favre and he was the reason the Golden Eagles were on the national radar, while his summer wreck and subsequent injuries had made quite a few headlines, as well.

Escaping near death, Favre stayed alive for his final campaign at USM, including what turned out to be the last time for decades Mississippi State and Southern would face each other on the gridiron.

September 22, 1990.

Sleepy Robinson

Sleepy Robinson

On the other sideline, MSU had a young hardly-used quarterback by the name of Sleepy Robinson, a dual-threat option for the otherwise pro-style offense run by head coach and former State QB Rockey Felker.

That day on Scott Field was the first time Robinson saw some real action, but despite his integral role in the outcome of the game, it wasn’t his own play that stands out in his memory.

“The biggest thing I remember,” Robinson said, now a recruiting specialist at MSU, “was that strong arm Brett Favre had, like, ‘Wow this guy has a cannon!’”

However, none of the involved quarterbacks had a particularly strong game, as those involved recall. It was a defensive battle where Favre barely completed 45% of his passes, only totaling 124 yards, and State quarterback Tony Shell threw two interceptions, one of which was returned for USM’s only touchdown.

Now back on the staff at MSU as the Director of Player Personnel, Felker remembers both sides considering it their biggest game of the season that year, leading to a bit of a violent affair.

“We haven’t played Southern since then,” Felker said, “but people who remember that game, everyone would say it was a physical battle and one of the toughest, hard-hitting games they’d seen in a long time.”

The two sides traded field goals in the first quarter, the most offense they could muster. Neither team had any success moving the ball.

Then what seemed like a death blow came in the second quarter when Shell threw an interception around midfield and Eagle defensive back Kerry Valrie returned it 47 yards for the score and the lead.

Finally, as the first half was nearly done, an offensive breakthrough came.

“36 S was the play. Fullback in the flat, tight end dragging backside. I remember that,” Robinson now recalls. “I think I may have played six plays that whole game.”

But the Bulldogs were on the one-yard line and Felker had called his number and sent in the young dual-threat quarterback.

“One of the worst mistakes I ever made was not getting Sleepy more involved in the offense,” Felker conceded. “He could run, he could throw, he knew how to get the ball in the endzone. He was very valuable in those kind of situations, goal-line and short-yardage.”

Rockey Felker in his playing days

Rockey Felker in his playing days

The Eagles saw the change-of-pace quarterback come in and assumed it would be a run. Turns out, it was a pass.

Robinson completed a one-yard throw to Treddis Anderson, tying the game and scoring the first and only offensive touchdown of the day.

“Coach [Dan] Mullen talks about that now,” Robinson said. “You’ve gotta be ready when your number is called. You go to practice and prepare. When it’s time, it’s time.”

For the remaining bit of the first half, offenses were stymied. The third quarter proved no better as neither Favre nor Shell were able to make any real progress. Same story for the majority of the fourth quarter.

It wasn’t until the game started to wind down, when it was then or never, that one side finally made a push.

Getting his first significant playing time in nearly two years, senior running back David Fair came in and led the charge for MSU. The Bulldogs drove methodically down the field. It looked as if they might once more sniff paydirt and take a lead they were sure to maintain.

Until the drive stalled just outside the redzone. Bent but not broken, USM’s defense had slowed the attack.

With three minutes left in the game, in front of the biggest non-conference crowd at the time in MSU history, Joel Logan stepped onto the field for a 41-yard field goal and what was surely State’s last chance.

Just the year before, Logan had sealed victory with a game-winning field goal with four seconds remaining to beat Favre and his Eagles in Hattiesburg.

Could he do it again in front of the home crowd?

The snap came, the hold was set and Logan unloaded on the football as 40,115 watched it sail off his foot and into the air.

It was good, right through the middle of the uprights.

MSU took a 13-10 lead and ultimately won the game.

It’s funny what all went into that game off the field. Beyond the fame of Favre and his summertime accident, of course.

Robinson himself had been heavily recruited by USM just a few years before when Favre was a relative unknown. The Eagles wanted Robinson as their QB of the future, and he planned on granting them their wish.

In fact, he and his best friend/high school running back had intentions of going to college together in Hattiesburg to keep the duo alive.

RobinsonS-A1But something in the air, let’s say, told Robinson it was the wrong choice.

“I went down there and caught one of the worst colds of my life, so I decided I wouldn’t go to Southern,” he said with a smile.

How different things would’ve been in the state for football. “Sleepy” went on to be a star at MSU in Jackie Sherrill’s opening years. Favre’s story needs no telling.

But what if Robinson had taken up the offer to spend his college career in Hattiesburg?

“I wouldn’t have beat out Brett Favre, now,” he said with a big laugh. “No. I never actually wanted to be a quarterback a day in my life. I wanted be a receiver or free safety. I thought I was better than Jerry Rice.”

Beyond Robinson’s near-decision, Felker had incidentally created some tensions of his own. Four of his assistants on staff had come to Starkville from USM before the 1989 season. Their feelings toward Southern were strong, and the coaches and players left in Hattiesburg felt similarly.

“It was the most important game of the year to our coaches, and they were gonna make sure that our football team was ready to play,” Felker said. “That was one thing that really changed our attitude and viewpoint of that game. At one point, it was tough to get up for Southern. They weren’t in the SEC and it was the biggest game of the year for them. It wasn’t for us. In ‘89, that changed. We knew how we had to approach that game if we were going to win it.”

He’s right, though. For most of the ‘80s, Southern had been the ruler of the rivalry, beating the Bulldogs more than a few times.

“Over those 10 years from 80-90, Southern had embarrassed us,” Felker said. “It was a game that we circled on the schedule. A game we knew we had to win. We approached it like any in-state rivalry game.”

Things have of course changed since then. Just as soon as the rivalry had escalated, it was killed off.

Felker now

Felker now

Now, 24 years later, the two will finally meet again for the 2014 season-opener in Starkville. Circumstances are different for both squads and coaching staffs, and the “rivalry” is certainly far less passionate and heated.

But, coaches will say, any time you play someone in the same state, there’s an extra element to the matchup.

“Our players know their players, they know us. They grew up together,” Felker explained. “The fact it is, in-state puts a different twist on it. I expect this year’s game will be very similar.”

In different roles and at much different ages, Felker and Robinson will be together on the sideline again for MSU-USM. They’re hoping for their second win in a row together, however long it may have taken.

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All-Time MSU Football Team: Defensive Line

Over the three weeks of fall camp, Mississippi State will be collecting votes and assembling an all-time MSU football team in honor of the 100th anniversary of Scott Field. Winners will be announced over the course of the season as the starters are filled in on both sides of the ball.

Voting is simple: the candidates and their highlights are listed below, just vote for your choices in the poll.

2012draft_fletchercoxToday, we are selecting four defensive linemen from the pool of candidates.

Buddy Elrod 1937-40

All-SEC 1939-40, All-American 1940

Tommy Neville 1961-64

All-SEC 1963-64, All-American 1963

Jimmy Webb 1971-74

All-SEC 1972-74, All-American 1974, !st round NFL Draft pick

Harvey Hull 1973-76

454 tackles (2nd), 26 sacks (2nd), All-SEC 1974-76, All-American 1976, National Lineman of Week for 15 solo tackles vs USM in 1975

Tyrone Keys 1977-80

26 sacks (2nd), 183 tackles, six fumbles recovered, 32 tackles for loss, All-SEC 1978-80

Glen Collins 1978-81

224 tackles, All-SEC 1980-81, All-American 1981, named an SEC Legend in 2013, 1st round NFL Draft pick

Billy Jackson 1980-83

360 tackles, 49 sacks (1st), All-SEC 1981-83, Freshman All-American 1980, All-American 1981

Greg Favors 1994-97

19.5 sacks (6th), most sacks in a game (5.5 vs. Ole Miss 1996), All-SEC 1997

Ellis Wyms 1997-00

120 tackles, 10 sacks

Willie Blade 1999-00

79 tackles, 13 for loss, five sacks, All-SEC 2000, semi-finalist for Outland Trophy

Dorsett Davis 1999-01

150 tackles, 13 for loss, four sacks

Willie Evans 2002-05

24.5 sacks (3rd), All-SEC 2005

Titus Brown 2004-07

18.5 sacks, All-SEC 2006-07

Pernell McPhee 2009-10

91 tackles, 22 for loss, seven sacks, two forced fumbles, seven pass break-ups, All-SEC 2009-10

Fletcher Cox 2009-11

114 tackles, 24.5 for loss, 7.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, All-SEC 2011, All-American 2011, 1st round NFL Draft pick

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All-Time MSU Football Team: Running backs

Over the three weeks of fall camp, Mississippi State will be collecting votes and assembling an all-time MSU football team in honor of the 100th anniversary of Scott Field. Winners will be announced over the course of the season as the starters are filled in on both sides of the ball.

Voting is simple: the candidates and their highlights are listed below, just vote for your choices in the poll.

Anthony DixonToday, we are selecting two running backs from the pool of candidates.

Blondy Black 1940-42

1,577 yards on 260 carries, 6.1 yards per carry (1st), All-SEC 1941-42

Tom ‘Shorty’ McWilliams 1944-48

1,808 yards on 412 carries, 4.4 YPC, only MSU player to ever get a Heisman vote, All-SEC 1944 and 1946-48, All-American 1944, SEC player of the Year 1944

Art Davis 1951-54

1954 Nashville Banner SEC MVP, All-SEC 1954, All-American 1954, 5th overall pick of 1956 NFL Draft

Hoyle Granger 1963-65

1,534 yards on 350 attempts, seven touchdowns, 4.4 YPC, All-SEC 1963-65

Wayne Jones 1971-73

1,865 yards on 396 carries, 12 touchdowns, 4.3 YPC, 7 100-yard games (T-2nd)

Walter Packer 1973-76

2,820 yards (3rd) on 483 carries, 20 touchdowns (T-9th), 5.8 YPC, six 100-yard games (T-4th), All-SEC 1974-75

Michael Haddix 1979-82

2,558 yards (5th) on 425 carries, 20 touchdowns (T-9th), 6.0 YPC, All-SEC 1981-82

Michael Davis 1991-94

2,721 yards (4th) on 578 carries, 27 touchdowns (3rd), 4.7 YPC

Keffer McGee 1994-96

1,647 yards on 323 carries, 16 touchdowns, 5.1 YPC

J.J. Johnson 1997-98

2,452 yards (7th) on 453 carries, 24 touchdowns (4th), 5.4 YPC, 7 100-yard games (T-2nd), 1998 Conerly Trophy, 1998 All-SEC

Dicenzo Miller 1998-01

2,209 yards on 403 carries, 17 touchdowns (plus seven receiving), 5.5 YPC, six 100-yard games (T-4th), 2000 All-SEC

Jerious Norwood 2002-05

3,212 yards (2nd) on 573 carries, 15 touchdowns) 5.6 YPC, 2005 Conerly Trophy, All-SEC 2004-05

Anthony Dixon 2006-09

3,994 yards (1st) on 910 carries (1st), 42 touchdowns (1st), 4.4 YPC, 17 100-yard games (1st), 2009 Conerly Trophy, 2009 All-SEC

Vick Ballard 2010-11

2,157 yards on 379 carries, 29 touchdowns (2nd), 5.7 YPC, six 100-yard games (4th)

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Live-blog: Dan Mullen press conference for Southern Miss game

At 1 p.m. today, Dan Mullen will hold his weekly press conference. Mississippi State plays Southern Miss on Saturday to open the 2014 season.

Updates to come.


He’s here! Let’s get rolling.

Mullen is running through what makes the game exciting: 100 years of Scott Field, expanded Davis Wade Stadium, record crowd, first Saturday night game on SEC Network and an in-state rivalry game. Lot going on, for sure. He’s pumped.

“It’s something special to start the season with a rivalry game like this.”

Mullen says the possibility of getting USM back on the schedule was one of the first things brought up to him when he was hired.

Talking some more about flexibility on the offensive line, Mullen says MSU had started to feel good about having a two-deep at every position before Damien Robinson’s injury. Still close, and he says it helps that so many of their guys can swing to a different position on notice.

Asked what USM brings to the table, Mullen says, “I’m sure winning their last game of the season last year has bolstered their confidence.” Complimentary of head coach Todd Monken.

Mullen also likes the defense of Southern: “They’ve got some solid players on that side of the ball.”

He likes the rivalry, as well.

“On the national level, probably an underrated game. But on the local level, people have been looking forward to this since 1990.”

Mullen says QBs coach Brian Johnson will be in the box on gamedays. John Hevesy and Billy Gonzales both on the sidelines.

Mullen says they work on so much in training camp, but now it’s game planning and they trim down what all they’re using and specifying their plan for the opponent.

Mullen asked about trick plays and Jameon Lewis, says it doesn’t matter so much that people have seen it.

“It’s not what you run, but when you run a trick play … The key to a trick play is when you do them … I think our personnel gives us the flexibility to do that.”

Mullen said part of what makes it so easy and comfortable for guys is that they have a lot of people who were quarterbacks in high school. He mentioned that Gabe Myles, Lewis’ backup, was a QB in high school, just like Lewis. Interesting.

More on the offense: Mullen says so much of what they do, especially with tight ends, is about getting mismatches. Having some faster than the big guys or bigger than the fast guys, whatever it may be.

Asked to compare ‘rivalry’ to Egg Bowl, Mullen says “There’s no game that’s gonna be like that for us. Ever. That’s just something that’s different.”

Nice note from Mullen: Only one player on the current roster was alive when MSU-USM last played in 1990. TE Rashun Dixon was one month old.

Back on the offense, Mullen says Dak Prescott has relatively significant freedom to change calls and check into something different on the line. He’s comfortable with it, but will always ask the QBs “Why?” no matter if it worked or not. Just wants to make sure his guys are making the right decisions for the right reasons.

Mullen says kickers Evan Sobiesk and Westin Graves are “about a kick away from each other.” Says both may kick in the opener Saturday.

On team captains Malcolm Johnson, Jay Hughes and Dillon Day, Mullen says “they show what the program is all about.” Adds that 26 different people got votes for captain.

I can agree with this: Mullen says the players are ready to get in their game-week routine. Says that veterans will help the young guys in doing so.


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Reaction: MSU releases first in-season depth chart

The first in-season depth chart for Mississippi State football just came out (the entirety of which you can see at HailState.com) and in our football excitement, let’s look at what it means position-by-position.


We knew Dak Prescott would be one and Damian Williams would be two, So nothing too groundbreaking here. I’d expect Nick Fitzgerald to be the emergency No. 3, having spent extra time in the offense after arriving early back in December.

Running Back

Again, Josh Robinson as the one is no surprise. Seeing senior Nick Griffin in the No. 2 spot is nice. He’s torn both his ACLs and seems to finally be healthy for the first time. He could push Robinson for carries, though as the season goes along, sophomore Ashton Shumpert will get in that mix as well following a strong fall camp.

Offensive Line

Big story here is how the line has shaken out following graduation and injuries. Senior Ben Beckwith is at left guard (backed up by sophomore Jamaal Clayborn) while junior Justin Malone has right guard and sophomore Justin Senior is the starter at right tackle. There was speculation Malone could have switched to right tackle when senior Damien Robinson went down, but Senior has apparently shown enough in practice to prove to coaches he’s deserving of the starting gig.

Injuries aren’t good, but following the loss of Robinson, this was the ideal scenario for O-line coach John Hevesy and helps him to get his five best players on the field, which he’s stated often is his goal.

Tight End

Again, the starter (Malcolm Johnson) we know, but it’s the rise of sophomore Gus Walley we take note of here, who is listed as the third tight end. He’s entering a season healthy for the first time and has taken advantage of his lack of injuries. In an offense which plans to utilize tight ends (and often two at a time) Walley will see the field plenty. Junior Brandon Hill serves as Johnson’s back-up following a consistent and strong fall camp.

Wide Reciever

No shocker here that sophomore De’Runnya Wilson has established himself as a starter along with seniors Robert Johnson and Jameon Lewis. Elsewhere, freshman Gabe Myles has earned the backup spot behind Lewis in his first season as a receiver and he’s looked impressive in practices. He’ll play a fair bit. Fred Brown has been a camp standout, as well, as we see by his listing as No. 2 behind Wilson. Sophomore Fred Ross isn’t on the two-deep, but I’d still expect him to have a big role, too.

Defensive End

Senior Preston Smith and junior Ryan Brown were the presumptive starters entering the season and they maintained their roles, but not without a push from sophomore A.J. Jefferson, who had a great spring and an even better fall. Also interesting to see sophomore Nelson Adams – all 300 pounds of him – earning a No. 2 spot at defensive end. The switch from tackle has worked for him.

Nick James

Nick James

Defensive Tackle

No, Chris Jones isn’t listed as a starter. Yes, he will play as many if not more reps as any other defensive lineman on the team. This is a good opportunity to remind that MSU’s coaches take very little stock in what depth charts say, especially on defense. At this point, being called a “starter” is no more than the honor of having your name on the video board when the lineups are announced.

Behind seniors Kaleb Eulls and P.J. Jones as the “starters,” sophomore Nick James has pushed himself into a co-backup role with senior Curtis Virges, a good sign for the talented tackle.


Once more, the starters are what we expected with Benardrick McKinney, Matt Wells and Beniquez Brown serving as the top three. Behind McKinney, sophomore Richie Brown is the backup MLB and may be the first linebacker in off the bench. He’s done very well in the fall and will be the one to spell the All-American when he needs a break. On the outside, Christian Holmes is back on the defense for his senior and serves as primary backup to B. Brown. he’s been a special teams ace regardless of position and coaches have been impressed with him through camp entering his final year.

Another name to watch which isn’t listed: freshman Dez Harris. Coaches love him both for his athleticism and his intelligence. He’s someone to keep an eye on this year.


We knew who the top three would be with starters Taveze Calhoun and Jamerson Love and nickel corner Will Redmond. The question was who would step into the role as the fourth and we seem to have the answer in sophomore Tolando Cleveland, who earned reps as a true freshman last year.


Early returns appear to indicate senior Justin Cox’s switch from corner to safety to be a success. He’s earned the starting role at free safety, while senior (and newly-elected team captain) Jay Hughes is listed as ‘OR’ with junior Kendrick Market, who teammates consider the hardest hitter on the team.


Sophomore Evan Sobiesk finished last season as the starter and will likely get first crack at it again this year, but he’s listed as ‘OR’ with freshman Westin Graves, who made a push down the stretch of the preseason to make it a sincere battle for the job of kicking field goals.


MSU’s kickoff returners are returners from last year – Jameon Lewis and Robert Johnson – as are the punt returners, with Lewis and speedy sophomore Brandon Holloway taking the one and two spots there. Guys like Will Redmond and Justin Cox could find their way into those roles, as well.

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MSU women’s basketball surprises 15-year-old Serra Pearson

“Hey y’all! My name is Serra,” her letter starts out. “Before the last week of February, I was an everyday normal 15-year-old going to school. I played snare drum in the band and finished my last game in varsity basketball.”

Three days later, her “everyday normal” life ended forever. She woke up in the middle of the night in severe pain, couldn’t keep her food down, could hardly sleep and over the course of the next three weeks she lost 30 pounds.

Serra Pearson went through test after test, endless hospital visits and several diagnoses over the next few months. She was passing out, she was getting dizzy, she still couldn’t eat or sleep and she’d lost another 20 pounds. She couldn’t go to school, spent weeks in the hospital and was given yet another diagnosis.

On April 1, she took her last steps.

unnamedFinally, Serra and her family found the source of her trouble this summer when she was diagnosed with AAG (Autoimmune Autonomic Ganglionopathy), a disease with only about 80 known cases, and she is the first pediatric patient to suffer from it. Typically caused by cancer, AAG comes from her immune system creating antibodies to fight a tumor, but overreacting and creating far too many, resulting in her body seeing her natural muscles, organs and tissues as foreign things which need to be attacked and killed.

At one point, Serra lost all movement and even lost the ability to breathe on her own. Doctors have helped rectify that problem, though no treatment yet has been deemed successful in making her better and restoring full function. Restrained to her wheelchair, life for 15-year-old Serra is far different than it was six months ago and it will certainly never be the same.

“It was her dream to play basketball in college,” Serra’s mother Jenny Pearson said Thursday. “And I know she would have, because she’s just amazing.”

Raised in Hatley, Mississippi, Serra is also a huge Mississippi State sports fan. Basketball in particular, as you’d imagine.

So, Thursday afternoon, MSU’s women’s basketball team took the hour drive to Hatley to surprise Serra in the gym she had played her last game in.

She won’t get to play again, they know, but that doesn’t mean she can’t still be part of the team.

Head coach Vic Schaefer and his players, before dancing, playing, talking and laughing with her, presented Serra with her own MSU basketball jersey with her name on the back. They then asked her to join them for their first game this fall, to come sit on the bench for their season-opener in Starkville.

“Getting to see them and know they’re here for me – it’s just awesome hearing them say I’m part of their team,” Serra said. “They’re amazing girls.”

Serra was also gifted a trip to Disney World, though as her mother observed later, “This means probably more to her than going to Disney.”

“We all take for granted every day what we get to do in life,” Jenny continued. “My child won’t be back on the court to play basketball. To give her that hope of just being able to sit on the sidelines and be a part of the team – I’m speechless.”

Schaefer often preaches to his team the idea of living and playing for something bigger than yourself. There are people with far greater struggles than any you go through, he will tell his players.

DSC_0410Easy enough to hear from your coach and halfway dismiss without any evidence. Savannah Carter, a senior guard under Schaefer, admitted as much. It’s not real until you see it for yourself. Now, she says, she won’t be thinking about how tired she is when she gets up for a 6 a.m. workout. She’ll be thinking about Serra.

She’ll be remembering the smile on Serra’s face when the team walked into the gym. The laughter when they danced with her in her wheelchair and the genuine gratitude she could hardly express.

“That’s the thing about Serra,” her high school basketball coach Scott Carter said, “she’s so humble and sweet, everything that happens to her, it’s like she can’t believe it. It’s almost surreal for her. That’s what you’re seeing on her face when she saw the Lady Bulldogs standing there, when she was given a Mississippi State jersey with her name on it and she was asked by Coach Schaefer to sit on the bench with the team in their first game. It moved me to tears.”

For Serra, the fight goes on. The bills are adding up and treatments are ongoing.

For MSU’s staff and players, it seems a bit unfair to leave her and go back to playing basketball when she cannot. But now, as Schaefer had so often told them, they have someone to play for. And they’ll see Serra again. That first game is in just a couple months.

“It’s really a special day,” Schaefer said. “What a blessing to have an opportunity to come here and be a light for somebody that’s in a fight for their life. As much of a blessing as it was to her, it was tenfold what she did for our kids today and my staff and I. It really brings things in perspective. Down two with two to go ain’t near as bad as you think it is.”

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All-Time MSU Football Team: Kicker and Punter

Over the three weeks of fall camp, Mississippi State will be collecting votes and assembling an all-time MSU football team in honor of the 100th anniversary of Scott Field. Winners will be announced over the course of the season as the starters are filled in on both sides of the ball.

brian-hazelwoodVoting is simple: the candidates and their highlights are listed below, just vote for your choices in the poll.

Today, we are selecting one punter and one placekicker from the pools of candidates.


Mike Patrick 1972-74

40.93 yards per punt (6th) on 171 punts (6th) for 6,999 yards (6th). Record for longest and second longest punts in MSU history (84 yards vs. Alabama 1974, 82 yards vs. William and Mary (1974)

Todd Jordan 1989-93

42.8 yards per punt (2nd) on 112 punts for 4,793 yards. All-SEC 1992

Andy Russ 1993-96

41.96 yards per punt (4th) on 159 punts (7th) for 6,672 yards (7th)

Jeff Walker 1996-99

43.44 yards per punt (1st) on 141 punts (10th) for 6,126 yards. All-SEC 1997

Baker Swedenburg 2010-13

41.65 yards per punt (5th) on 153 punts (9th) for 6,373 yards (8th)



Artie Cosby 1983-86

48 made field goals (1st) on 81 attempts (1st) for a .593 percentage (7th). Longest field goal in MSU history (54 yards vs. Memphis in 1985)

Joel Logan 1987-90

41 made field goals (3rd) on 61 attempts (3rd) for a .672 percentage (4th)

Brian Hazelwood 1995-98

43 made field goals (2nd) on 73 attempts (2nd) for a .589 percentage (8th). 2nd (53 yards) 6th (52 yards) and 8th (51, twice) longest field goals in MSU history. Two-time All-SEC 1997-8

Scott Westerfield 1999-00

30 made field goals (6th) on 42 attempts (5th) for a .714 percentage (3rd). T-8th (51 yards) longest field goal in MSU history, most made field goals in a season (18 in 1999). Two-time All-SEC 1999-00. Two-time semi-finalist for Lou Groza Award 1999-00

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Anti-Social Media: Why a few Bulldogs have decided not to tweet

I remember a few years ago, I unfollowed someone on Twitter because I wanted to cap the number of people I was following at 200. Any more than that just seemed unreasonable and too difficult to manage.

twitter-logoFast forward to present day and I’m following well over 1,000 folks. I never did re-follow that guy (sorry), but I couldn’t help following so many people as time went on and more and more people signed up to share their insights and observations.

It seems like everyone is on Twitter, especially in athletics, and I felt the need to follow them.

Though, while it seems like everyone is sending his or her thoughts out into cyberspace, there are still a few who don’t.

In an online world, there is a small group of players on Mississippi State’s football team who prefer to keep their human interactions limited to real life.

Why don’t they tweet like all their other teammates? Becoming a starter comes with much more than added playing time – you typically end up adding a few thousand Twitter followers, as well.

For some, that’s just the reason they don’t.

Whatever reasons they have, I asked a few of these Twitter-leery Bulldogs the same question: Why don’t you tweet?

Here are their answers.

Kaleb Eulls, senior defensive lineman: “To me, social media is just going to get you in trouble. You see what happens to some of these guys. It’s just trouble.”

Blaine Clausell, senior offensive lineman: “I just don’t do social media. It’s not my thing. I prefer face-to-face conversation.”

Malcolm Johnson, senior tight end: “I don’t do any of that stuff. There are too many opportunities to put your foot in your mouth. A lot of people try to judge you or think they know you because of Twitter, so I don’t give them that chance.”

A.J. Jefferson, sophomore defensive lineman: “Your girl will get you caught up. Social networking, it’s just another way…”

Jocquell Johnson, junior offensive lineman: “I used to, but it just gets you in trouble. Then Instagram came into play.”

P.J. Jones, senior defensive lineman: “Because I’m not a high-profile guy. I stay low-key.”

They may never see this article if all I do is tweet it, but they’re just fine with that. (Of course, if they ever do sign up, I’ll encourage them to follow me at @bobcarskadon #shamelessplug)

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All-Time MSU Football Team: Quarterback

Over the three weeks of fall camp, Mississippi State will be collecting votes and assembling an all-time MSU football team in honor of the 100th anniversary of Scott Field. Winners will be announced over the course of the season as the starters are filled in on both sides of the ball.

Voting is simple: the candidates and their highlights are listed below, just vote for your choices in the poll.

Today, we are selecting one quarterback from the pool of candidates.

Jackie Parker with the CFL Championship Grey Cup (courtesy: Edmonton Journal)

Jackie Parker with the CFL Championship Grey Cup (courtesy: Edmonton Journal)

Jackie Parker 1952-53

All-American 1953, All-SEC 1952-53, member of National Football Foundation Hall of Fame, two-time Nashville Banner SEC MVP (1952-53), record for most total touchdowns in a game (six vs. Auburn 1952). 24 career rushing touchdowns (T-4th all-time), 15 passing touchdowns, 39 career touchdowns responsible for (7th), 24 total touchdowns in 1952 (2nd-best single season), 8.52 yards per pass attempt (1st), most points scored by non-kicker in a single season (120, an SEC record until 1992) and most points responsible for in a single season (168), most points responsible for in a single game (six touchdowns and six extra points vs. Auburn in 1952), MSU’s leading punt and kick returner 1952-53, led MSU in interceptions (four) in 1953, nicknamed “The Fast Freight From Mississippi State,” one of five in MSU Ring of Honor, member of Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, 135.11 passing efficiency (2nd), only quarterback with a perfect 1.000 completion percentage in a game (vs. Ole Miss 1953)

Tommy Pharr 1967-69

3,720 passing yards (8th), 24 touchdowns (8th), 36 interceptions. 569 rushing yards, four touchdowns. 11 200-yard passing games (T-1st)

Rockey Felker 1971-74

2,921 passing yards, 23 touchdowns (9th), 27 interceptions. 815 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns

John Bond 1980-83

4,621 passing yards (6th), 18 touchdowns (10th), 37 interceptions. 2,280 rushing yards (1st among QBs), 24 touchdowns. 6,901 yards of total offense (2nd), 42 touchdowns responsible for (4th)

Don Smith 1983-86

5,229 passing yards (5th), 31 touchdowns (5th), 35 interceptions. 7,097 yards of total offense (1st), 1,868 rush yards (2nd among QBs), nine career 100-yard rushing games (1st among QBs), most 100-yard rushing games in one season by a QB (five in 1986), most yards per game in a career (165), most yards per game in a season 262.4 in 1985, 52 total touchdowns responsible for (1st), tied-most consecutive games in a season with a touchdown pass (six in 1985)

Sleepy Robinson 1990-92

1,501 passing yards, 14 touchdowns, 11 interceptions. 682 yards rushing, seven touchdowns

Derrick Taite 1993-96

5,232 passing yards (4th), 38 touchdowns (2nd), 25 interceptions. Nine career 200-yard games (5th), records for most passing yards in a game (466 vs. Tulane 1994) and total yards in a game (468 vs. Tulane 1994), 5,405 yards total offense (6th)

Wayne Madkin 1998-01

6,336 yards (1st), 34 touchdowns (3rd) and 35 interceptions. 116.85 career passing efficiency (8th), 11 200-yard games (T-1st)

Tyler Russell 2010-13

5,441 passing yards (3rd), 42 touchdowns (1st), 23 interceptions. 137.29 passing efficiency (1st), most touchdowns in a season (24 in 2012), 10 200-yard games (4th), .587 completion percentage (3rd), 410 completions (3rd)

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Day in the Life: A fall camp Friday with MSU strength coach Rick Court

“Come on, coach!”

Mississippi State’s senior defensive tackle P.J. Jones was jokingly trying to get his strength coach Rick Court to come try and block him in practice.

“Just because you’re 70 pounds heavier than me doesn’t mean I won’t kick your tail,” Court quipped back.

“You couldn’t.”

“I’d step on your foot and you’d be done. Step on your foot, punch you in the gut, then knee you in the head when you bend down. Over.”

“Uh-uh, coach,” sophomore d-lineman Nick James chimed in. “We got you!”


I met up with Rick Court a little before 9 a.m. last Friday. I was supposed to shadow him for a day, learn about what he does and what life is like for Mississippi State’s strength and conditioning coach during camp.

Rick Court, center, with his strength staff

Rick Court, center, with his strength staff

He’d already started his morning at team breakfast at the hotel at 7, followed by the coaches meeting with Dan Mullen and his assistants. The SEC Network was playing at a low volume on the TV in his office as he got his notes together for the morning.

He’s as organized and structured as you’d likely expect a strength coach to be, and every bit as intimidating in sight and sound. Though he’s also far more outgoing, joking and warm-hearted than you’d probably think. I just hope he doesn’t get mad at me for calling him warm-hearted.

9 a.m., weight room at MSU’s football complex: The day started as each does, with Court running the staff meeting of full-timers, graduate assistants and interns. This was the first time he’d put up the schedule of how things will run on game weeks for the football team, a schedule they will soon begin following.

After a quick review, he then went into instructions on what they’d be doing in the weight room that day for the two workouts, offense/special teams first at 10, defense after at 11.

Somewhere right around there, close to probably 9:15, is where I heard the last sentence I completely understood for at least a couple hours. I’m no World’s Strongest Man, but I work out several times a week and have done so for years. I like to think I’m at least somewhat knowledgeable around a weight room. But I hadn’t been around anything like this before.

Court started naming off workouts (I assume?) that sounded more Latin than English, instructing the leaders of each station in the room what they’d be doing, reviewing any limitations on injured players (“He got a neck and a foot in the same day, but there’s no modified restrictions. He’s cleared.”), making sure the individual needs of each position group are attended to, anything they needed to know.

Watching and listening from the back of meeting, I only understood about every 10th word, but certainly not enough to string complete thoughts together.

“… hydrant … waggle … clams …”

I am beyond confused.

“Does that make sense?” Court asked one of his assistants.

“Yes,” he replied.

“No,” I thought to myself.

9:30 a.m., weight room: I must have looked sleepy to Court as he went back and forth across the room getting things set up.

“Don’t yawn in here,” he told me. “If the guys catch you yawning, they’ll make you do push-ups.”

9:37 a.m., weight room: I yawned. No one saw me.

9:45 a.m., weight room: Position meetings must be done because Dan Mullen is on the elliptical you can see on the second floor overlooking the weight room. He’s got his headphones in. I wonder what he’s listening to.

9:57 a.m., weight room: I could tell Court was getting anxious, ready for the players to get there and get the workouts started. He doesn’t seem like someone who very much likes wasting time. He had the place ready, now he just needed the people to run through the workout. He gave a strong punch to one of the hanging punching bags as he walked by. He was pacing, looking out the door, opening it, closing it, ready to go.

unnamed10 a.m., weight room: The workout begins. Things I haven’t seen elsewhere. 300-plus pound offensive linemen trying to balance one-legged on soft, unstable pads.

My favorite sight all day was when I happened up behind sophomore running back Ashton Shumpert, whose dreadlocks must increase the size of his helmet by at least a couple or few grades. He stood in perfect position with knees bent, stance wide and body completely still as he balanced small weights in each hand, slowly bringing them close to his chest, extending his arms back out, pushing them outward to his sides and then bringing them back in to start the circle over.

That muscle-bound running back was the picture of serenity amid the yelling, huffing and music surrounding him.

Once the warm-ups were done, Court met with the full offense/special teams group.

“We’ve only got 45 minutes. We’ve got the scrimmage tonight. Let’s get it right!

“The mind is just as important as the body. If your mind isn’t right, we’re gonna be 6-6.”

Once the weightlifting begins, Court transforms to maestro.

In the weight room, Court is a conductor, the players are his orchestra and weights are his instrument of his choice.

He runs from station to station, yelling, encouraging, teaching, correcting and blowing his whistle to let them know it’s time to move to the next one, which they sure as heck better run to.

Everything moves so fast in there. So structured. So organized.

The television screens have constantly rotating pictures. At one point, there was a slide of The Rock and Mark Wahlberg walking away from an explosion in sleeveless shirts.

In giant print on a poster on a wall are the words: “FATIGUE MAKES COWARDS OF US.”

Below that are racks of weights with dumbbells as heavy as 150 pounds, as if the idea of someone casually throwing around 150 pounds with one arm is normal enough to have those dumbbells waiting.

“Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!”

“Up! Down! Up! Down! Up! Down! Up! Down!”

One of the offensive linemen was dancing between sets on the bench to the music playing over the speakers and joking around with Court.

“Get on the bench,” Court told him with laughter in his voice. “When you weigh 315 pounds, then you can dance.”

Court followed up the command with a smile and patted his young lineman on the belly.

unnamed-110:45 a.m., weight room: It all went silent. The players were out and the music was off. The only sound was the staff putting all the weights and machines back in their place for the defense, who would be in shortly. It was during a conversation in this lull when I learned Court is from the Detroit area and actually played basketball growing up. In fact, in junior high, he had the unenviable task of guarding Shane Battier in the post.

11 a.m., weight room: The defensive players arrive as the offense is out on the turf practice field for a walk through. They may already be tired from their earlier walkthrough, but the defense got the better end of the deal. From the many-windowed weight room, I could see the heat of mid-day Mississippi sun coming off the ground. The haze makes it look like they’re on a TV with bad antenna reception.

On the inside, the same routine was run through again.

At one point, one of the cornerbacks couldn’t do shrugs because of some soreness in his shoulders. Court grabbed an elastic band and put one end under the guy’s shoes, the other cradled by the inside of his elbows, asking him to pull that way.

“Feel OK?”

“Good. Problem solving, baby.”

11:30 a.m., weight room: I don’t know why the thought struck me then, but as long as I’ve been around sports and covering MSU, I finally got something I never had. A thought clicked.

When players respond to outside criticism by saying, “They weren’t with us in the offseason,” this is what they mean. No one does see this stuff. Those on the outside just see the finished product.

This is why stars on the team shy away from individual attention or accolades when speaking with the press. Everyone in that room is doing the same work, putting in the same effort. None of the 105 players worked any less hard than anyone else. When someone asks a quarterback about how great he is individually, this is what he thinks about. These workouts. These afternoons on the practice fields. He doesn’t think about the sweat he broke. He thinks about the sweat of the 104 other people doing the same thing beside him.


On the way out of the weight room after the workout was finished, sophomore defensive lineman Chris Jones looked at the countdown clock to the season opener beside the door.

“15 days, six hours and 37 minutes!” he yelled.

12 noon, multipurpose room of Seal Complex: Lunch, thank goodness. I worked up an appetite just watching those guys.

And food, it turns out, was the main topic of conversation with Court (after he got a quick lift in himself). Or nutrition, more specifically.

MSU hired a nutritionist as camp began, one of many things Court has done to get his team as healthy as possible. He told me about the setup they have after practice, where they have tables full of fruit, Gatorade and shakes that players have to eat and drink from before they can get off the field.

Once in the locker rooms, there are more Gatorades, more shakes and more snacks. Fruit is the best kind for it’s simple sugars and high water content. They are keeping players hydrated, keeping them from losing too much weight and keeping their bodies in peak form.

“I’d venture to say we’ve got the best post-practice in the country,” Court told me.

They’ve got a snack room setup outside the weight room, stocked with healthy options. They weigh-in multiple times per day.

Court, who moved to Starkville and took this job at the beginning of the calendar year, has introduced what has turned out to be one of the most important additions to the team: hydration tests.

unnamed-4Before and after practice, every player is required to take the test. It’s pretty simple. At a table in the locker room, one of the strength coaches has a machine that checks hydration levels in a matter of seconds. You get one of three colored magnets next to your name on a board depending on the results: green for perfectly hydrated, yellow for slightly dehydrated and red to signify that you are in the danger zone.

They put me through the test: I’d just finished a cup of coffee and I was right on the line between hydrated and not hydrated, so I grabbed a Gatorade. Any player who gets yellow is made to drink one. Anyone who shows up in red must drink several, with the first one including a salt tablet to help retain the water.

Court and his staff will then follow up with those players shortly afterward in team meetings to make sure they’re hydrating properly.

“We haven’t had a single cramp so far in camp,” Court told me.

As a team, they’re only losing two pounds per practice, which is incredibly impressive. Court has stationed two trainers with every position group at practice, with three types of drinks available to them. He’s not messing around.

“We’re at the front, in terms of sports science,” he said.

Court has been working on things like this for years, though. He’s been learning everywhere he goes, researching ideas, looking into new practices and developments and taking notes on all of it, preparing for the day he was finally the head guy with the resources to do what he wants. Now, here at MSU, he has it, and he’s only just started implementing everything he wants. His thirst for knowledge lines up with his desire for hydration.

1:25 p.m., Court’s office:

“Let’s go mess with these guys!”

Court grabbed his bullhorn and headed down to the locker room. The players had meetings in five minutes and he was going to make sure they were all in attendance.

A swoled up man with a shaved head, trimmed beard and a T-shirt tucked into his baggy gym shorts, he was power-walking around the locker room with his deep voice booming, index finger pointing and bullhorn blaring repeatedly, surrounded by shuffling players and coaches walking around blowing their whistles and yelling that it was time for meetings.

1:30 p.m., upstairs at Seal Complex: Turns out, I happened to be there for picture day for the strength staff.

“I need the new staff picture for my mantle,” Court joked.

“We didn’t get a chance to do arms before the pictures,” one of his assistants lamented.

unnamed-2If I felt uncomfortable or out of place in the weight room, it was nothing to how this group felt as they posed for pictures. To cover for their discomfort and nerves, they made fun of each other in turn as each took his headshot.

“Watch this. We can make Stallworth laugh in his picture easy.”

2:00 p.m., Palmeiro Center: With a scrimmage that night in the stadium, the team had a special teams walk through in the afternoon to prepare, where the strength staff half observed and half interacted, serving as dummies for drills here and there.

4:00 p.m., locker room: Time for the hydration tests and weigh-ins. The scrimmage is at 6 and team meeting is at 5. If someone isn’t hydrated, this is the last chance to fix it before the pads go on.

5:00 p.m., team auditorium: Court and his staff are set up just inside the door to hand out Gatorades as the team meeting begins. Like Santa with his naughty-or-nice list, they know who needs to hydrate.

6:00 p.m., Davis Wade Stadium: The last big scrimmage of fall camp took place in the nearly-finished stadium they’ll return to in two weeks for the season opener. As the night begins, Court again stands at the front of all 105 players, conducting his physiological orchestra, leading the team in stretches before the scrimmage begins and the day comes to an end.

He’ll be back at it first thing tomorrow, and every day for the next five months straight, at least. It’s no wonder his voice is so hoarse.

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