KEYS FOR VICTORY
1. Keep Dak healthy
With Tyler Russell likely out with a concussion, sophomore Dak Prescott will make his first career start at quarterback. However, true freshman Damian Williams is the only other scholarship signal caller on the roster.
It will be imperative to keep Prescott healthy just in case Russell’s situation lingers past this week.
Prescott is better known for his running ability and ran for as many touchdowns (four) as he threw in 2012. With the lack of depth at QB, it might not be the smartest idea to subject his body to any more blows than necessary although his 230-pound frame is pretty durable.
2. Convert third downs
Mississippi State had multiple opportunities to capitalize offensively early in the game against Oklahoma State. But the Bulldogs continually struggled on third down and finished the day just 2-of-16 on those conversions.
Even in third and long situations, MSU kept its offensive play calling conservative which is something Dan Mullen vows to correct this week. It was only the fourth time the Bulldogs have been held out of the end zone under Mullen’s watch.
3. Gain experience
A dozen State players made their debuts last weekend and five more made their first career starts. If the Bulldogs are able to establish a prominent lead at any point against Alcorn State there could be an opportunity to see several more newcomers take the field.
Mississippi State is relying tremendously on inexperienced players at wide receiver and cornerback as well for depth in other areas so playing time in front of a home crowd against an FCS opponent should be a confidence building leading into the conference opener at Auburn next week.
WHAT TO WATCH
When MSU has the ball
It will be interesting to see if offensive coordinator Les Koenning opens up the playbook or stays conservative in his approach with an inexperienced quarterback behind center. Prescott completed just 7 of 17 passes for 89 yards and an interception taking over for Russell in the third quarter last week.
Look for the Bulldogs to go back to the ground game that was working early on against OSU. LaDarius Perkins had 53 yards in the first half but carried only three times for minus-three yards in the second. State has a stable of capable backs so they should be able to keep fresh legs in the backfield.
When Alcorn State has the ball
Expect Alcorn State to attempt some read option in its game plan. Oklahoma State backup quarterback J.W. Walsh rushed for 125 yards and a touchdown and found success running out of the diamond formation.
The Bulldogs had no answer for it, so anticipate ASU to try a similar approach.
The Braves put up 63 points and 464 yards in their season opening win over Edward Waters behind a stellar game from quarterback John Gibbs Jr. The 6-foot-6, 200-pounder completed 15-of-20 passing for 184 yards, one touchdown and also rushed for 59 yards and a TD.
MSU offensive line vs. ASU defensive line
The Bulldogs offensive line will likely be shuffled with right guard Justin Malone doubtful with a leg injury. It will be up to juniors Ben Beckwith or Damien Robinson to fill that void in what would be the first start for either. Mississippi State needs to establish its physicality up front early and maintain it throughout the game.
Last week the Bulldogs only had 111 yards on the ground and gave up three sacks. Alcorn State primarily uses a three-man front so it will be vital for MSU’s o-line to get to the second level and get a hat on linebackers on running plays.