For the first time in 30 years, Mississippi State is venturing to the Northeast for a football game.
The Bulldogs meet Massachusetts at 2:30 p.m. today at Gillette Stadium, home to the NFL’s New England Patriots.
“It’s another tough road challenge having to go up to the Northeast,” said MSU coach Dan Mullen. “It’s a great, great opportunity to go play in an NFL stadium in a great environment. I know our guys are excited about that opportunity and are ready to get back out and get back on a winning track.”
The Bulldogs’ last trip to the region came in 1986 when they defeated Syracuse 24-17 in the Carrier Dome. State is 4-1 all-time in games played in the Northeast with its only loss coming to Duquesne 16-0 in Philadelphia in 1941.
A total of 20 players have debuted for the Bulldogs this season and there are 11 first year starters. Many of those players experienced their first road trip at LSU last week but now have to endure playing 2,214 miles away from Starkville and the distractions of an NFL venue.
“It’s imperative that we stay focused on what’s important,” said MSU linebacker Richie Brown. “Obviously we’ve got a lot of young players and the leaders have to step up and communicate to them to stay focused and be a role model to the younger guys on how to go through a long road trip like this.”
State fell behind on the road last week 23-3 by halftime but rallied in the second half to outscore the Tigers 17-0. It was the third time in as many games that the Bulldogs have shutout an opponent for a half.
“We’ve had really good outings in certain halves and in other halves it’s really been a polar opposite,” said MSU defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon. “I’m asking us to look at ourselves and challenge ourselves to play as long as it takes. The time and score is not of essence, we’re going to play until the refs tell us to stop playing.”
Today will be the first ever meeting between the two programs. UMass is also 1-2 on the year having lost at Florida 24-7 and to Boston College 26-7 in Foxborough before picking up its first win at home 21-13 over Florida International last week.
“They’re a very good football team,” Mullen said. “They’re very quick on defense and made a lot of movement and blitzes. They’re going to blitz all over the place and move and stunt guys around all over the place. Offensively, they like to throw the ball around and probably a little different than some teams that spread it to throw it.”