STARKVILLE – In 2009, Mississippi State became the first Southeastern Conference program to play a team from the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
It just so happened to be Dan Mullen’s first game as head coach of the Bulldogs. MSU won 45-7 that day over Jackson State.
This weekend will mark the fourth time the Bulldogs have played a SWAC opponent, taking on Alcorn State for the second time. All four meetings against the SWAC have been against in-state Alcorn State or Jackson State, something Mullen believes is beneficial to the Magnolia State.
“It’s a game that’s a lot of fun for both schools,” Mullen said. “There’s a lot of familiarity there. You get to see these guys playing in high school at a lot of local towns throughout the state of Mississippi, so it should be a really neat game.”
Mississippi State won its lone matchup at home against the Braves, 49-16, in 2010.
Alcorn State coach Jay Hopson knows a thing or two about playing BCS opponents. Hopson played and coached at Ole Miss as well as stops at Florida, LSU, Southern Miss, Memphis and Michigan.
Hopson understands the environment of playing a televised game in an SEC stadium will be much different than the crowd of 3,100 that watched the Braves’ season opening 63-12 win over NAIA Division II opponent Edward Waters in Lorman.
“Naturally when we pull up into Starkville and there’s (55,000 fans), I think as a competitor you can’t help but get excited,” Hopson said. “I think that’s something that’s just going to naturally happen. But we try to coach them that everything between the lines is what is relevant.”
The Braves racked up 464 yards of offense in their opener, scoring seven of their eight touchdowns on the ground. Sophomore quarterback John Gibbs Jr. completed 15 of 20 passes for 184 yards and a touchdown while rushing for another score.
“They’ve got some athletes,” said MSU defensive coordinator Geoff Collins. “Their quarterback is 6-foot-6, 200 pounds, and (they) have two 6-foot-2 receivers that can run. They’ve got some talent and some big offensive linemen that are pretty powerful.”
Hopson, who is in his second year at Alcorn State, hopes that his Braves will have an opportunity to schedule other opponents like MSU in the future.
“It’s a venue that we certainly want to play in,” Hopson said. “We want to play in a venue similar to this every year. We want to play against SEC teams, and hopefully it’ll be a good experience for all of us.”