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Monday Morning Coffee Break
FOOTBALL Although it's difficult to see a lot of positives right now as far as the football team is concern, they do continue to show on-the-field improvement. After suffering embarrassing losses to SEC opponents Auburn, LSU, South Carolina and Kentucky, during the last three games, the football team has played well against Alabama, Tennessee and Arkansas. In fact, MSU appears to have improved each game. First, they suffered a 28-14 setback at Tuscaloosa against Alabama. Then, after playing Tennessee tight for most of the game, a couple of turnovers provided the 35-17 margin. The latest loss was a 26-19 setback to Arkansas in Starkville this past Saturday. The Bulldogs showed a lot of character by coming back from a 26-6 deficit to make the game tight at the end. What makes this improvement even more significant is the fact that the MSU coaches have been starting so many freshmen. On defense against Arkansas, MSU started four true freshmen, linebacker Marvin Byrdsong, free safety Darren Williams, cornerback Kevin Dockery and defensive tackle Willie Evans. Byrdsong and Williams, along with junior defensive end Jason Clark and junior linebacker T. J. Mawhinney, led the Bulldogs in tackles with 10 each. Evans was right behind them with 8. After being picked on by the Razorbacks quarterback early, Dockery played well in the second half, batting down two passes, one a potential touchdown pass. Another factor that causes me to be optimistic about next year's defense is 11 of the 15 players with 2 or more tackles during the Arkansas game will be back next season. Eight of those players are either freshmen or sophomores. Plus, one player who didn't play in the game, junior defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, will also be back. On offense MSU played freshmen running back Jerious Norwood, wide receiver Tee Milons, quarterback Kyle York and offensive lineman Johnny Wadley. Add injured freshmen offensive linemen Chris McNeil and Richard Burch, both of whom started at one point during the season, to the mix and the future looks very bright on the offensive side as well. And don't forget that the starting punter, sophomore Jared Cook, and the starting kicker, junior Brent Smith, will also be back next season. Since starting the season 2 of 4, Smith has made 12 of his last 14 attempts this season. He has also made 7 in a row, including a 53-yarder against Tennessee. But before next year is here, MSU has the matter of settling a cowbell debt with the Ole Miss Rebels in Oxford, Mississippi this Thursday night. BASKETBALL A Mario Austin-less Bulldog basketball team ran into the extremely hot hand of Louisiana-Lafayette's Brad Boyd Saturday night. After trailing 23-11 at the 10:13 mark in the first half, the Bulldogs came back to take a 34-33 lead at halftime. However, behind the hot-shooting of Boyd (5-7 from the 3-pt. stripe) in the second half, Lafayette defeated the Bulldogs 79-76. Boyd's 9 three-pointers are a Humphrey Coliseum record. While Boyd (9-18) and his teammate Anthony Johnson (4-10) were on fire from three-point range, MSU's three-point shooters weren't faring as well, shooting 7 of 24 (29.2%) during the game. Timmy Bowers was the most effective going 4 of 9. Mario Austin According to coach Rich Stansbury, Mario's status is still in limbo at this time. However, MSU should find out the next procedure that is required by the NCAA in this unbelievable situation. As for whether Mario will be back in a Bulldog uniform this season, common sense tells me he will. Obviously the NCAA has no real case, especially in a court of law which is where this will be headed if they don't come to their senses. I have to believe that they will eventually either come to a compromise with Mario and MSU or rule him eligible, hopefully, with an well-deserved apology. Now if only the person who is strongly rumored to be behind this mess will owe up to it and apologize to Mario and MSU. Of course that is highly doubtful. Stay tuned..... Well, that wraps up this week's edition of the Monday Morning Bulldog Coffee Break. Have a great Bulldog week! Gene Swindoll Archived Monday Morning Coffee Break Articles link: Click Here... Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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