You talk about playing 60 minutes of football. Is that a mental thing?
"It's mental. You know what you have to do. You can't take a play off. You have to play every play like it's the last snap."
Is the Ole Miss game more about spoiling their season or about MSU trying to build something for next season?
"It is pride, it is pride, 365 days of pride and bragging rights. I don't know too many guys who play for their team, but it is a big rivalry thing. We are trying to keep the Egg (Bowl trophy) home at Mississippi State."
You are losing some great players in Mario (Haggan) and Josh (Morgan) but you also have a lot of players who are coming back that have gotten a lot of playing time this season. "Oh yeah, we have a lot of guys coming back. It's not like we are going to rebuild; we are just going to put somebody else in. We have some young guys who are ready to play."
You were 3-8 last season and 3-8 this season. Do you guys sit around and talk among yourselves about what went wrong?
"We think about the record but nobody knows (the reason why). We just try to stay focused on the next game. We are getting better each game, but we are just not winning. We are playing hard."
You've played on teams that have won. What do you think this team is missing that you had on the teams that won?
"I really can't say. The team that I was on that won, we grew up together. We knew each other and knew how each other played."
You mention players playing together and knowing each other. MSU is playing a lot of young guys, including starting 4 freshmen on defense last week. Because they will have played together for quite a while, do you see them developing what your high school teams had?
"Oh yeah, they are going to develop. Those young guys are going to be some great players. Next year, they will know coming in what they have to do."
Talk a little about Ole Miss.
"They look decent on film. They have a great quarterback. We just have to come out and play a good game. Everybody is talking about how we have to come out and play our best. This team is a good team, but probably not one of the better teams that we have played. They do some good things, but they have had their struggles just like we have."
There are a lot of young guys who will be playing in this game for the first time. Talk about how you, as a veteran, will help those guys understand what this game is all about.
"The young guys that are in right now, they have played some tough games. The guys who will be in there Thursday will have played 7 or 8 ballgames already. They are well prepared, so there's not a whole lot I can do other than go out there and play hard and make plays that I'm capable of making. That's the way I can show them how to play in an intense ballgame."
Do you have any regrets coming back for your senior season?
"Oh no, I have no regrets at all. When I made that decision, I said I was going to live with it. When you regret that is when things go wrong. I prayed about it and the Lord let me make the right decision. All things happen for a reason. I think I will finish up great here and I will be successful in life."
What does this game mean to you?
"It means a lot to me. I don't want to be 0-for in conference play this year, my senior year. To beat Ole Miss I would have a winning season against them. I have lost to these guys one time and shouldn't have lost then. If I can beat these guys Thursday night I will have a winning record (against them)."
Talk about how the season has gone for you personally.
"For me, personally, it has been a great one. I've made a lot of plays, statistic-wise. I've learned how to be a leader. Team-wise, we haven't succeeded as much as we would have liked, but I think we have gained a lot from it. We've learned how to fight. Many people don't know that this team kept fighting and kept fighting. There has not been a lot of arguments, not a lot of finger pointing. I'm proud of how this team has responded to every game. We don't give up. That is what I like to see out of a team. We have a lot of youth and expect a lot from this team in a couple of years when they grow up. They've taken their bumps and bruises but in a couple of years they are going to give them (back)."
How is your ankle?
"I'm fine. I'm ready to go. I wouldn't missed this one for the world."
Was it tough having to sit last week?
"It was really tough sitting out last week, because it was my Senior Day, my last game at Scott Field. I really, really wanted to play and I know the fans would have liked to have seen me play."
Is the key to beating Ole Miss putting pressure on Eli Manning?
"Just slapping Ole Miss around the field is the key to beating them. They are a small team and are not as physical as I have seen. You hit them hard and I think they tend to quit. They may think the same thing about us. It just boils down to Thursday night and going out there and playing."
Is this game about spoiling Ole Miss' season or about MSU winning the game and building on something for next year?
"It is both. To me, it is about spoiling Ole Miss' chances. This is my last chance. I will be an alumnus next year, so I won't be playing. For the younger guys, it is to help build something and get ready for next year."
This will be your last game in a Bulldog uniform. Have you reflected about that the last few days?
"I've thought about different things. How many times I've played teams like LSU and Alabama. How many games that I have missed. How many highlights that I have made against different teams. Who I have played best against and who I haven't played well against. Summing it all up, I'm done pretty darn good. There are going to be a lot of memories left behind."
Who have you not played well against?
"I haven't played particularly well against Middle Tennessee. That is the one that I had the worse game against. Teams like Auburn and Florida I played well against, but I didn't get the tackles that I wanted."
Have you graduated?
"I graduate in three weeks. I came here and didn't know exactly what I had ahead of me as far as a gift of scholarship. Once I decided to do things right in the classroom, I begin to prosper on the field. To graduate the same time my career ends is very exciting to me and my parents. I'm hoping that I have made a lot of other people proud and they can look at that and feed off of it."
Do you think about the day when you and Cokie (Justin Griffith) might meet in a future NFL game?
"We have talked about it. We work out a lot together. We do a lot of things outside of football together. We hope we will be blessed and play for the same team and continue to work out together and be together. If not, then we will have to take a business-like approach on Sunday."
Who would win if you two went against each other?
"(Laugh) We would give it 50/50."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher and owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial site for Mississippi State sports since October, 1996. He can be reached by email at email@example.com