STARKVILLE – Game week isn’t quite here, but it sure felt like it to Jay Hughes on Tuesday.
Mississippi State is still trying to polish up some things from preseason camp, but players and coaches are turning more of their attention to the season opener, which is just 10 days away. The Bulldogs open on Aug. 31 against No. 13 Oklahoma State in Houston.
After taking Monday off for the start of fall classes, MSU was back on the practice field Tuesday, and the anticipation of another season is growing.
“Yeah, I can feel it,” said Hughes, a junior safety. “I actually felt it today when I stepped on the practice field. I had in my mind I was going to have a good day, and I did.”
MSU took Monday off as the fall semester began, and so that changed up the practice schedule, which players must adjust to. Fifth-year head coach Dan Mullen said another part of the transition is “cleaning some stuff up” from training camp while turning an eye toward Oklahoma State.
“It’s kind of like a bye week right now, where you’re working a bunch on Oklahoma State, but you’re also working on a bunch of fundamentals and cleaning things up from training camp that we want to get fixed,” he said.
A big point of focus for MSU will be figuring out how to defend Oklahoma State’s passing attack. The Cowboys’ starting quarterback hasn’t yet been announced, but last season this team ranked seventh nationally in passing offense (331.7 yards per game) and third in scoring offense (45.7 points per game).
MSU has a young secondary that lost three key players from last year, including Johnthan Banks. Hughes is just fine with his group being overlooked.
“Everybody’s been saying we’re the weakest part of the defense or the team. We ain’t trying to hear that, so we’re trying to get it, man,” Hughes said.
The Bulldogs have already started studying film on Oklahoma State and have begun scout team work in practice. Mullen said OSU does a good job spreading the wealth on offense and of establishing a fast pace.
That tempo can be tough to simulate on the practice field.
“It’s hard,” Hughes said, “but that adrenaline, when you kick it in, it don’t matter who you’re playing against.”