"It's A Great Way To Finish Off A Season"
Dan Mullen
Editor-Dawgs' Bite
Posted Nov 19, 2012


“Obviously, the biggest game of the year for us. It is every year, it’s of huge importance; the final game of the year, you’re rivalry game. It means a lot to these kids. A lot of these kids play against each other on both teams growing up, at least a lot of guys from Mississippi on our team that know how important this rivalry is.”

“They grow up with it, and they go home to their hometowns, they know it’s not an intrastate rivalry like some are. It’s a neighbor-to-neighbor which makes it an even bigger game. And our guys know what an important deal it is, and we always make a huge emphasis on it. And it’s a great way to finish off the season.”

“Oh, you guys like injuries, too. Nothing new. Ferlando Bohanna who had a groin, he should be good to go, back in the lineup this week. Again he’ll be day-to-day with it because it’s more of a muscle pull than anything, but the trainers expect him to play this weekend.”

Perkins has had big games receiving against Ole Miss, he showed that Saturday, should we expect it this week? “As we’re looking at the matchups they give ups, a lot of that determine matchups, what read, and how the defense is going to play it. So if they give it to him, then you expect him to have that type of game. If not, then they don’t. And if they’re going to spend their time trying to take that away then obviously the great thing that Tyler does is he doesn’t lock-in on one guy. You can just see that statistically in what he’s done all year. If you’re going to take one thing away, even if that’s something we come in and say we’re going to try to create this matchup; if we don’t have it he doesn’t force it. He just goes to his next read and moves on and plays the next play. That’s what he’s done a good job of. So if they give us those good matchups with Perk then I’m sure Tyler will go take advantage of it.”

You’ve said this game doesn’t impact recruiting between the teams, what do you say to a kid who is choosing between the two schools? “If this game had everything to do with the recruiting then I guess we would have gotten every kid the last three years. And I guess they would have gotten every kid the year I got here.”

“I think a lot of kids, when you look recruiting wise, a lot of guys know what they’re looking for in a school. Knowing what the values are of the football program, how they want to be developed, how the program runs, what the community and the town is like, and whether that fits who they are. So I don’t know that the outcome of this game always determines that. I mean, it’s what it is.”

But it doesn’t hurt winning? “It always helps. Its fun bragging rights, you know what I mean? I say this, the kids that really want to come to Mississippi State and the kids that really want to go to the school up north, a lot of those guys play in different all-star games and all that stuff. And it certainly gives them bragging rights that maybe is heard by the guy that is in-between both of them when all those high school kids get together.”

When you arrived you embraced the Egg Bowl, do you have any advices for Hugh Freeze? “No. I hope they have as bad a week of practice as we did going into my first Egg Bowl. When I left on Thursday thinking we’re going to lose by about 50 going home for Thanksgiving dinner! We just didn’t have a very good practice on Thursday going into the game. I guess it showed how that worked out, too!”

“I think he understands. I think one of the things, whether or not he understood it interviewing maybe for the job, when he took it, I think when they named him the head coach I’m sure a lot of people made him understand how important the rivalry is. I think that’s what it is like at a lot of schools. That’s what makes college football a little bit different. You have some great rivalry games in college football, this is obviously one of the best in the country.”

“I think the fan base makes you aware of it. Not just the guys on the team, or the tradition. Hey, you’re playing for a trophy. It’s a trophy game, which we don’t have a lot of in the Southeastern conference. I think in the Big Ten it looks like a team will play four or five different ones. Coaching at some schools, even University of Florida--there’s a trophy game but you don’t carry it around—it’s so massive against Florida State. But some people are like Georgia is the rival, Tennessee is the rival. To me it’s pretty clear-cut for us who our big rivalry team is here. And I think our administration understands that, our student body, our fan base, everyone in the state of Mississippi understands that. so you get made aware of it. And as a first-year coach if you don’t know it coming in, or don’t know how important or haven’t been involved in big rivalry games before, they educate you very quickly.”

Ole Miss has put players off-limits to media this week? “We won’t. You can talk to our guys. I don’t know (if they’ll talk trash). I don’t put the reins on our guys that much. They are who they are.”

Your first two years you tweaked Ole Miss a lot, you haven’t done that as much lately? “Not on purpose. I don’t have any more respect for them now than I did last year and the year before or the year before that. Maybe they haven’t just changed their mascots or given me the layup to poke fun at them like years past.”

What do you think of their hiring Hugh Freeze? “I always thought Houston was a good football coach. Sometimes the chemistry and in today’s college football it' a ‘what have you done for me lately’. He had some big wins, and in the Southeastern Conference, it turns on you in a hurry. (Freeze) took over a young team and got them to buy in to going and playing hard. That’s the one thing I see, and not that they didn’t play hard before but it’s more of a sense of urgency. Also what comes with it is when you have young players and in a first-year program, success isn’t defined by wins and losses. My first year I think our program changed a little bit in the Florida game when we lost. We played them here and the whole entire roster starts in the NFL right now and every guy on their team is a household name. And our guys came out, I couldn’t tell you what the final score was but more importantly they never backed down. They played with unbelievable effort. You see them (Florida) on TV and then you play them tight and your guys go ‘wow and I remember looking up to that guy and now I’m on the field with them competing at the same level, I must be pretty good’. And as that confidence grows, you’ll make more plays and good things will happen to you."

Is it equally important to deny Ole Miss bowl eligibility? “I don’t view it that way, you know what I mean. I view it as, I could care less if they were 11-0 or 0-11 or whatever it is coming into this game. When you get in these games, the record’s completely irrelevant. Our focus to me is winning that trophy for Mississippi State. That’s 100% of the focus. What effect it has on them, that has nothing to do with me for the game. If they make a bowl game--obviously I don’t want them to make a bowl game this year because that’s what it is. If they were 6-5, I’d be happy for the people of Mississippi, having another football game they'd get to watch this year.”

Have you had any interesting interactions with fans leading up to the Egg Bowl? “I get lots of comments., check my Twitter feed and all that stuff. There’s a lot of choice comments made about this game on both sides of the fence. I’ll be honest, every once in a while, every couple days, sometimes on Fridays I’ll go skim it just to be amused. This week it’ll be even more amusing, because there will be comments from both sides, positive and negative from both sides. There will be some school up north fans that are trying to smooth me over and catch me off guard right there and write nice things on my Twitter feed; and some State people that are annoyed that we didn’t throw another touchdown pass on Saturday and they’ll be bashing me on Twitter. That’s the neat thing in social media today, it gives everybody have their opinion heard very loudly.”

How much would it mean for seniors to be 4-0 against Ole Miss? “It’d be tremendous. To them it means everything. That’s a pretty special deal. You look at all the kids, and we drew a lot of our seniors from the state of Mississippi, born and raised here, probably going to live here. You look back and just say, like anybody, well when I played, we went 4-0. That's something that’s pretty impressive that you have to say for the rest of your life, and I know they take a lot of pride in that.”

Las Vegas has Ole Miss a one-point favorite? “Do we get a point when we show up? (Laughs) What’s that mean, though? Because you get so many points for being the home team, right, and it's a night game. It means we’re two pretty evenly matched teams playing each other, I guess.”

What did you like about Cameron Lawrence? “He’s a guy that's bought into our program, a try-hard guy, and a guy to come in as an academy quarterback in high school. And here he is being one of the leading tacklers in the Southeastern Conference for two straight years. It’s a guy that really believed in the program, takes coaching well, plays hard, really works hard at it. That’s what has made him successful. That’s a good role model for anybody to look at. If you’re going to commit yourself to being great at whatever it is you’re doing, you’re going to succeed, and that’s good for anybody to see in any phase of life.”

What did you like about Bo Wallace coming out of junior college? “He won. He won. When you look at him, he’s won. There’s something about winning at quarterback. You win. I played quarterback for a little while during my career. I had one coach tell me once ooof, you're not a very good runner, you’re really not a very good passer, but you seem to get the job done to win games. That’s a pretty good compliment to me--I guess. I didn't like that I wasn’t very talented, but I liked that I won. That to me is an important aspect at that quarterback position, because you can really raise the level of play of everybody around you. It’s that belief when you walk into the huddle that if we've got you in the huddle, we’ve got a chance to win this game. That’s a contagious attitude.”

So you were a game manager: “I don’t even know if I was that. I wasn’t very dynamic with the ball in my hand, and I made up for it with a very weak passing arm.”

Cameron Lawrence and others come from what is Rebel country? “I think a lot of those guys. You look at those guys and I don’t even know if they recruited him out of high school. I guarantee you there are guys on their team who maybe really liked Mississippi State that we didn’t take, and there are guys here who really liked them that they didn’t take. I think that adds to some of it. For the guys from the state of Mississippi, they know. They’ve got to go home for Christmas. What’s the first thing you’re going to hear when you go to the mall? I don’t know if we have a lot of malls around here. OK, there’s a mall in Tupelo, my wife goes up there. So, Chad Bumphis goes home and he’s going to go out to the mall Christmas shopping. Wherever you go, it’s kind of 50-50. I don’t want to count out Southern (Miss), so maybe 40-40 and 20 percent don’t really care. But you don’t want to hear from those other 40 percent. You want to be able to hold you head up high and stick your chest out far and have those bragging rights. It doesn’t matter if you’re down in the Delta, down in Jackson, down on the Coast, up in Tupelo or up in Olive Branch. It doesn’t matter where you are in the state of Mississippi. There are people on both sides. That’s what the in-state rivalry kind of does. For all of our guys from Mississippi, that's why it means so much.”

With the success of option packages in the Egg Bowl will you use it more? “Yeah, the ‘Relf Coast offense’. You know, we always keep a little element of the Relf Coast in here and there for Dak (Prescott) but it’s a very different scheme than we’ve seen in the past. It’s kind of a whole different philosophy. Plus, we’ve got to do what we do well. You don’t go into this game and kind of change everything for one game. That’s never been my belief in the big games. You do what you do well.”

Ole Miss is a quick, small defense? “They move all over the place. They very rarely are they going to stand still and play physical, in-your-face, one-on-one football. They’re slanting and blitzing and moving and twisting. And try to use their quickness as their strength to defend against the weakness of the size that they have. They’ve had a lot of success doing it.”

Have you ever run into Hugh Freeze, like at the mall? “They have the merry-go-round at the Chuck-E-Cheese up there, so I think he's got kids. Maybe I would run into him one day. The last time (long pause) I saw him was the Chick-fil-A Golf Tournament. I had lunch with him at the Chick-fil-A golf tournament.”

What did you talk about? “We were talking about the community because we have a house there right where it is. There’s a bunch of coaches out here, it’s pretty private, it’s a nice community to live in. I thought that was pretty neat.”

A lot of jobs are coming open and your name comes up every year? “I’ll probably be spotted all over the United States of America. We’re very happy here. No one has called me. I probably don’t expect anyone to call. I guess in having a little bit more experience with this, people know what they want to do. I think, maybe, I get thrown out kinda like chum for all of you to write about, while they get their stuff done because most people know I’m very happy here and we like being here. So, they throw me out as chum and everybody circles around that and then they’re off fishing in another part of the country.”

Cameron Lawrence has played well for several weeks now, how important is that? “To me it’s the seniors and the fact that he is a senior. It’s not just Cam. You need your seniors to play well if you’re going to be successful. They are the most invested guys. They have put the more in the program than anybody else. This is their last opportunity. You can tell guys to play every play like it’s your last because that is a realistic thing. Human nature tells you if I’m a sophomore I have a couple more of these Egg Bowls to go into. Seniors this is it for them. I think they play when that sense of urgency. We need those guys to play and (Cam) has done that. If they do that it shows and leads a path for the younger guys, look if you do this you are going to have an opportunity to be successful.”

What is the players’ schedule this week? “We are done at noon on Thursday. Same schedule we’ve had every year. It’s tweaked a little bit because we actually have school Monday and Tuesday this year. Last year we we’re off all week because of fall break. Wednesday we are earlier than we've been in the past and watch film with them a little differently with them. Thursday we try to finish at noon so everybody can go home and have Thanksgiving dinner at home. Our coaches can have a family thing. I think it’s important.”

Does this game more replicate the Holy War (Utah/BYU)? “Yeah. That wasn’t very friendly either. Most Holy Wars aren’t. I think just having the name out there of that game, just had that edge to it. It’s much closer to that than anything that you've had as a rivalry.”

Do you trust Dak Prescott in most every situation now? “The thing is he’s the backup quarterback too. We trust him. You have to have him ready to go play. Who knows what’s going to happen. He might have to play every snap of the game on Saturday, so you have to be ready for that. Him being comfortable as the backup, we are very comfortable with whatever the situation is. We put him in and he's going to go perform.”

So the Holy War is fiercer than Bowling Green and Toledo? “I think that was for the Peace Pipe. That was a pretty big rivalry game. Most fans there were kind into that rivalry, but the Ohio State-Michigan game trumped it. Even if you were a Bowling Green person and you didn’t like Toledo, the Ohio State-Michigan maybe even trumped you a little bit. Here it’s neighbor to neighbor. My neighbor has got school up north license plates on his car. I don’t want to get him into trouble. My son was over there playing with them on Saturday. He watched the end of the game there Saturday. I think the cheering was probably different on both ends.”

Canon is 3-1/2? “I think he was cheering for the school up north in that particular situation. He said all his friends were cheering for them in their household.”

Did you feel you’ve failed as a parent? “No because he has opinions on every game. He calls them the school up north too. He has very strong opinions every game that’s played on Saturday. He knows every team in the SEC. Since we lost to LSU the week before, he was not real high on LSU at that point. He wouldn’t mind seeing them lose. He reels off everything, he watches the ticker on the bottom. If they have the words he doesn’t get it, but if you show the symbol.”



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