Before getting into anything else, congratulations to Gabe Jackson for winning the Conerly Trophy as well as the Hull Award.
He’s deserving of both, and on a personal note, is every bit as nice as he is large and strong.
It’s fitting, of course, for Gabe to win the inaugural Kent Hull Award, given to the top offensive lineman in the state, as it’s named after former Bulldog legend and NFL star Kent Hull, one of if not the best linemen in the history of the state.
I mentioned this on twitter, but beyond being good at football (and a potential first-round NFL Draft pick), Gabe is always smiling, loves Taco Bell and is a great dancer for someone weighing 330 pounds.
In the big picture, MSU pretty much swept the state this year, winning every major trophy available, the Egg, Conerly and Hull. Not a bad week for the Bulldogs.
While congrats are being doled out, sophomore guard Craig Sword (a basketball guard, not offensive guard like Gabe) has been playing on fire lately. Fittingly, he earned Co-SEC Player of the Week honors this Monday. His big numbers are impressive, but watching him play is the best part.
Late in the game against Loyola on Sunday, Sword stood on the baseline at the perimeter, pretty much screamed at Tyson Cunningham to pass him the ball, immediately got his wish, then in the blink of an eye he went straight past his defender and into the air for a two-handed jam.
Rick Ray’s team may have found someone who can take over games and create points when the Bulldogs need it most.
On another basketball note, Ray said in his teleconference today that they haven’t ruled out freshman point guard IJ Ready for tomorrow’s home against TCU. I have no idea how likely it is he’ll play, though this would seem to be ahead of schedule. Whether he’s back tomorrow or next week in Tupelo, his return should prove valuable. His spark and athleticism at the position is needed.
As for women’s hoops, Martha Alwal deserves a mention. As a junior, she is now the all-time blocked shots leader at MSU. Not only as a junior, but before the conference portion of the season even started. Impressive.
As a transition from basketball back to football, the Egg Bowl trophy will be on display and available for pictures at the women’s game tonight at 7 and the men’s game tomorrow at 6 p.m.
As for football, senior safety Nickoe Whitley named Co-SEC Defensive Player of the Week for, among other things, his game-winning strip of Bo Wallace in overtime of the Egg Bowl.
What’s more impressive is the bomb Dan Mullen dropped this week: Whitley has been playing on ACL injury since week three. He was told he could have surgery and rehab for the NFL Combine and Draft, but Whitley chose to tough it out and play the rest of his senior year with his teammates. His decision proved invaluable as he had several decisive plays over the course of the 2013 campaign.
His toughness deserves mention, certainly.
On another football note, I don’t have an exact number, but I’m told bowl ticket pre-sales are going very well, if not better than they were at this time in year’s past.
The three options (Liberty, Compass and Independence) all being close in proximity to Mississippi and MSU certainly add to demand for tickets, as well as the exciting way the season ended, two-consecutive overtime victories over SEC West opponents.
A reminder that wherever MSU goes, part of the deal with bowl games is that the school is required to purchase a set amount of tickets (in the 10K-plus range for these bowls) and pay for them whether they actually sell them or not.
So, beyond securing Bulldog Club points, purchasing tickets through MSU rather than a third-party vendor helps increase the school and conference’s profits from postseason play.
Projecting how the SEC bowl picture will shake out is difficult, though based on what the BCS looks like before conference championship games, MSU seems likely to play in Memphis or Birmingham, two bowls within a few hours of Starkville, though in large, out-of-state metropolises.
As the awards train rolls on, two more deserve mention from the volleyball team, who won at Tennessee for the first time since the 1990s on Sunday to close the season out. Kimmy Gardiner, who has received honors throughout the season, was named to the All-SEC Freshman team following the conclusion of the regular season, while sophomore Taylor Scott was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week.
Congrats to both.
Oh, and one more thing I wanted to share, having very little to with actual sports.
Wes Rea went hunting in Texas over Thanksgiving. The resulting picture is superb.