State needs to step it up in the SEC

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 27, 2001

Mississippi State could very well have won its game with South Carolina, but in the big SEC battle at Starkville, the unbeaten Gamecocks outplayed the Bulldogs in key short-yardage situations. It won’t be a Thursday night State will soon forget.

Near-unknowns Corey Jenkins and Andrew Pinnock riddled State’s line for about 175 yards rushing between them, however the Bullies racked up 380 total yards to USC’s 298. Hard hitting was the key to the SEC thriller, as a matter of fact, with play after play coming up just a little short in one direction than the other.

The line play was ferocious by both teams, and I like that kind of game. Both should do well with that quality of work in the lines. Only thing about it, South Carolina’s already three wins on the way to perhaps better things. It’s menacing to note that State was outrushed 238 to 119 yards. Step it up, State.

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Truth of the matter, the jury’s still out on Jackie Sherrill’s Bulldogs, who are after all 1-1 counting the close USC defeat and a win over Memphis. But are they confident? The Dawgs need to kick it into another gear, looks like to me.

State leads SEC teams into warfare this weekend, and I do mean “warfare!” Starting with No. 21 State’s matchup with second-ranked Florida as the Bulldogs continue their killer schedule. MSU’s not bad, I repeat, but my goodness what a schedule! Starting with the still undefeated defending SEC champion Gators.

Along with the State-Florida Southeastern Conference headliner this week at Florida, there’s a dandy coming when USM grapples University of Alabama-Birmingham in Hattiesburg. You think not because it doesn’t sound that big? Think again, although I admit UAB has mostly never grabbed fans. But this is Conference USA we’re talking about. Quality stuff.

Like I said already, the jury is still out on Mississippi State, but it’s never figured that coach Jackie Sherrill’s Bulldogs will positively be slapped around. In fact, you can bet that few will completely bamboozle any team he coaches unless it’s a really down season. State’s not that bad this season.

But if you’re expecting a guess of a State victory, don’t. This season’s Gators are acting like they can go; they’ve beaten Marshall 49-14, Louisiana-Monroe 55-6, and Kentucky 44-10. Still, I must admit that the Bulldogs have played stronger foes to date, and could be better than we know.

The University of Louisiana-Lafayette is supposed to be one of those sleepers this season. You haven’t heard? Didn’t work against USM, did it? The Eagles of coach Jeff Bower as a matter of fact clubbed La.-Lafayette pretty good. The Golden Eagles made 22 first downs to the Cajuns’ eight, and just really scored at will.

I can’t conscientiously guess a Mississippi State win over Florida this week, although I just know it could happen, even without Dicenzo Miller. But I’m not hedging about taking the Eagles against La.-Lafayette. I’m just takin’ ’em.

Delta State is also looking good this season. I know the Statesmen beat North Alabama 21-3 last Saturday. Lot of people don’t realize the caliber of football played by the Statesmen. And Alabama might be watching. The Tide Saturday took potentially dangerous Arkansas 31-10. College football is simply looking A-OK as those of us who love it, rare back and get into it, 2001 style.

Glenvall Estes is a long-time columnist for The Natchez Democrat.