Mississippi State head football coach Sylvester Croom talks about his team's upcoming opponent, Ole…
Outside The Helmet, November 20
Gene: Gabe, how significant is the Ole Miss game to you? Gabriel O'Neal - "It's just like another rival to me like in high school - Ole Miss and Mississippi State, tradition, things like that. It's a heated rivalry and people have different opinions about it, but I treat it like another rival game. But I know it's our biggest rival game of the year, so I'm hoping we just go in and take care of business and end this thing on the right note." Gene: Dezmond, how important is this game to you? Dezmond Sherrod - "This is, by far, the most important game I have ever played in here at Mississippi State. A lot is on the line. It doesn't get any bigger than the Ole Miss - Mississippi State game." Gene: Royce, do you see it the same way that Dezmond does? Royce Blackledge - "Yeah, I do. It's the biggest game of my career. Ole Miss-Mississippi State...there's so much involved in this game - bragging rights for a year, bowl possibilities, and a lot of us have friends who go there." Gene: Do you guys remember when Omarr Conner and Anthony Dixon were laying on the ground with their heads to the ground after the loss to Ole Miss last year? Dezmond - "I don't remember the picture, but I remember when our hearts were broken when we didn't make the field goal to tie the game. That was the biggest down we could have. And I'm glad I have this opportunity to come back this year and get that feeling out." Gene: Have you carried that feeling with you since then? Dezmond - "It has been 365 days that you regret losing that game." Gene: Do you still hurt from losing last year's game? Gabe - "Yeah, I have a former teammate up there that I played high school football with. I will probably get a couple of text messages from him this week, but, after the game, he's the one who will be getting text messages and phone calls. I just want to go out this week with a win because it's my last game as a senior. He's had the bragging rights the whole year." Melissa: What is it going to feel like putting on that jersey one last time against Ole Miss? Royce - "For me, it's probably going to be a real emotional game as it will be for Gabe and Dez. It's going to be a special game. There are going to be a lot of emotions in this game." Dezmond - "Winning this game as a senior, you automatically get lifetime bragging rights. To win the Egg Bowl your senior year, no matter what happens after that, you can ultimately say you won your last Egg Bowl. We not only want to win the game this year for us, but for the guys coming back. And that is our main goal." Melissa: Have you guys explained the magnitude of this game to the freshmen? Gabe - "They don't really understand it because they haven't been through it and through the things that we have been through since we have been here." Gene: You have a freshman starting at quarterback - Wesley Carroll. I hope you make him understand the importance of it. Gabe - "He understands. He shows up and plays every week. It won't affect his game." Melissa: Your baby brother, Derek, understands doesn't he? Dezmond - "He practically grew up around Mississippi State through me, so he already knows how heated the rivalry between Mississippi State and Ole Miss is. So, I know he will show up on gameday." Gene: Did any of you grow up Mississippi State fans? Gabe - "I did. I grew up a Bulldog and I'm happy to be one. And I had family that played here." Dezmond - "I was also. Growing up in Columbus - thirty minutes down the road - most people in Columbus are Bulldog fans with an occasional Ole Miss fan. But I grew up a Bulldog fan and I was glad to come here and play here." Royce - "I didn't grow up as close to Mississippi State as these guys did, so growing up I was kind of neutral. I went to Southern (Miss) games." Gene: Royce, when did it become important to you since you didn't grow up a State fan? Royce - "I knew it was always a big game because I had buddies. And I would always pick the winner. (Everybody laughed). I was that kind of guy growing up. Not really. But you realize it's bragging rights for a whole year. And you really realize that when you get up here, especially when you are playing." Melissa: Is it more important to beat Ole Miss or is it more important to get that next win? Gabe - "Beat Ole Miss." Dezmond - "Beat Ole Miss, point blank." Royce - "Beat Ole Miss." Gene: So, it's like Coach Croom said, this is a season unto itself. Royce - "It is. It's a totally different game in a lot of ways. It's the in-state rival, so it's huge ..." Dezmond - "It doesn't really matter what the records either team has. We could be 0-11 or we could both be undefeated going into this game. We are going at it equally as if the national title is on the line." Melissa: I read somewhere that Alabama is State's new Ole Miss. Do you agree with that statement? Gabe - "I guess people say that because Coach Croom played at Alabama and the coaching job situation at Alabama. So, I don't really think they are the new Ole Miss. They are a step below Ole Miss." Gene: All three of you guys are seniors, so this is your last regular season game as well as your last home game. Do you think about that? Gabe - "I thought about it a couple of weeks ago. I thought about how fast the season went by. I only had two or three games at that time and I thought about what I would do afterwards. So, I just mingled with my teammates and try to keep my mind off of it and stay focused during the process." Dezmond - "It's pretty tough. The season really did fly by pretty fast. But I knew it would. I've waited a long time for this time to come and it's even more special to play against Ole Miss side by side with my brother. And the only thing that will top that off is a win." Royce - "The emotional part is starting to set in on me because it is the last regular season game. But we have to stay focused and fight our butts off. There is a lot riding on this game." Gene: Because it is so important in so many ways, it this a game that you just can't lose? Royce - "Right, and I think everybody sees it like that. We just can't lose this game." Melissa: But how will you be able to control that intensity? You did a great job of it against Alabama, but this game is even bigger. Dezmond - "This is our house ....." Gabe - "It belongs to us ...." Dezmond - ".... But we know they are going to try to come in and not only beat us, but try and ruin our chances of going to a bowl game. They have to win to do that but they have to go through us to do that." Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by email at email@example.com.
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