LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Although Mississippi State has lost more than it’s won, many of the players believe something valuable has been gained this season:
All SEC teams are given a certain amount of respect simply because they’re SEC teams. That’s no different with MSU.
While the Bulldogs currently reside at the bottom of the Western Division standings – at 2-4, with an overall mark of 4-6 – they cannot be considered doormats.
Arkansas, which will host State today in Little Rock, is preparing as if it’s playing the SEC champs. After all, the Razorbacks are cellarmates with the Bulldogs, at 2-4 (6-4 overall).
“We have to prepare this week for Mississippi State like it’s the Super Bowl,” Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett said. “We have to do that every week. We want to win out and that’s our goal, and it starts with Mississippi State.”
The road has been kind to MSU, which is 3-1 away from Davis Wade Stadium. Playing well on the road and playing teams like LSU and Florida close have given MSU’s players the feeling that nobody is looking down their nose at them.
“I believe we’ve definitely gained some respect this year,” senior tailback Anthony Dixon said. “That’s what it’s about to some degree, just going out there and getting your respect from your competition.”
It’s the way MSU has played – that whole “relentless effort” mantra espoused by coach Dan Mullen – that’s earned it that respect.
“Our record doesn’t reflect it, but teams know we’re going to come out every week, you’re going to have to fight to beat us if you’re going to beat us, and you’ve got to watch out for us every week,” offensive lineman Addison Lawrence said.
Two more wins against Arkansas and Ole Miss would gain MSU a whole new level of respect, not to mention a likely bowl bid.
“We need to win a little bit more to earn a little bit more respect,” Mullen said.
Dixon: Man of respect
There are several aspects of MSU’s game to respect, like the run game. Dixon has 1,082 yards on the ground, and the Bulldogs are averaging 208.7 yards per game, fourth in the SEC and 15th in the country.
There’s the defense, which has been porous at times – mostly in the secondary – but has come up with big, timely plays.
There’s the return game, which has given the Bulldogs a touchdown and a lot of good starting field position.
Middle linebacker Jamar Chaney, MSU’s top tackler and a fifth-year senior, hasn’t really given the respect issue much thought.
“Pretty much I could care less if somebody respected us or not,” he said. “If you don’t respect us, we’re going to earn your respect.”
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Today’s game at a glance
– Where: War Memorial Stadium, Little Rock, Ark.
– Kickoff: 11:21 a.m. n Television: SEC Network; live streaming at ESPN360.com
– Radio: MSU network; XM Channel 199; Sirius Channel 212.
– Records: MSU 4-6 (2-4 SEC), Arkansas 6-4 (2-4).
– Series: Arkansas leads 12-6-1.
– 2008: MSU won 31-28 in Starkville, as tailback Anthony Dixon rushed for 179 yards. Arkansas missed a 46-yard field goal as time expired.
– Coaches – MSU: Dan Mullen, 4-6 (first year); Arkansas – Bobby Petrino: 52-20 overall (sixth year), 11-11 at Arkansas (second year).
– Statistical leaders – MSU: QB Tyson Lee 121-206-13, 1,370 yards, 4 TDs; RB Anthony Dixon 204-1,082, 9 TDs; WR Chad Bumphis 28-318, 3 TDs; LB Jamar Chaney 81 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks. Arkansas: QB Ryan Mallett 175-294-4, 2,882 yards, 23 TDs; RB Michael Smith 71-396, 2 TDs; WR Greg Childs 37-689, 6 TDs; DL Malcolm Sheppard 18 tackles, 10.0 TFL, 2.5 sacks.
– Trends: MSU hasn’t beaten Arkansas on the road since 1997, with a 17-7 win in Fayetteville. State is 0-4-1 in Little Rock. … MSU’s Lee has thrown only one TD pass in the last five games. … Arkansas’ Mallett has thrown 141 consecutive passes with an INT, a school record. … Arkansas has thrown for 300 or more yards in eight of 22 games under Petrino.
– Notes: Arkansas ranks first in the SEC in scoring offense (37.6 ppg), total offense (450.1 ypg), passing offense (310.0 ypg) and turnover margin (plus-12). … MSU’s Chaney needs eight tackles to match his career best of 89, set as a junior. … Dixon’s 3,685 career rushing yards rank 11th in SEC history.
– Summing it up: “They’re so explosive of an offense and put up so many yards, you want to have to make them drive the field, and they have the ability to do that, put up big yards, big numbers against you.” – MSU coach Dan Mullen, on Arkansas’ offense
– Prediction: Arkansas, 34-28.
Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal