By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Tyler Russell hasn’t really gotten to experience the Egg Bowl, but he’s getting the full treatment this week.
No. 25 Mississippi State’s quarterback has been receiving some unsolicited text messages from Ole Miss fans in advance of Saturday’s Egg Bowl (6 p.m., ESPNU). Does that bother him?
“That just makes it more fun having the fans get into it, on both sides of the teams,” Russell said Monday. “It’s a heated rivalry, everybody gets into it and all the records go out the window for these games.”
Russell said he hasn’t responded to the messages and is “working on” getting his number changed.
“It just kind of motivates me,” he said. “It doesn’t get to me or anything. I don’t see the point in doing that.
“If they weren’t texting me then I would feel bad, but they are. I must being doing something well.”
This will be the first Egg Bowl start for Russell, a fourth-year junior. He didn’t play in the game as a redshirt freshman and barely played in last season’s 31-3 win.
He’s been doing quite well this season. Russell has passed for 2,523 yards and 21 touchdowns, both single-season MSU records. He’s been intercepted only four times in 333 pass attempts and is ranked seventh in the SEC and 36th in the country in pass efficiency.
Russell passed for 274 yards and four touchdowns against Arkansas last week to earn SEC offensive player of the week honors.
Ole Miss (5-6, 3-2) is 86th in the nation in pass efficiency defense.
“It will be the first time I actually get to play these guys for real, so it’s going to be fun,” Russell said. “They are going to come after us, but we are going to work really hard this week in practice. Do a lot of watching film.”
Ole Miss players have been getting messages from MSU fans, too, so it works both ways.
The talk will carry over to the field between the players. MSU linebacker Cam Lawrence will make a point of it, going so far as to gather some “background information” on Ole Miss players.
“I try to get in an opponent’s head,” Lawrence said. “I try to attack them mentally, physically. I try to get at them from every angle I can.”