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October 1, 2010Anytime you get to play an in-state team there is a natural rivalry between the two teams. The Mississippi State Bulldogs return to action at Davis Wade Stadium to face-off against the Braves of Alcorn State University.
This will be the first time that the two in-state teams will compete on the gridiron. Saturday's non-conference tilt will be the Bulldogs fourth game in five weeks. The game is slated for an 11 a.m. CT kickoff and will be televised on Fox Sports Net.
State began the 2010 campaign with a 49-7 victory over Conference USA's Memphis Tigers after closing out the non-league portion of their 2009 schedule with a 27-6 win over Middle Tennessee. State hasn't won three consecutive non-conference tilts since defeating Tulane, Gardner-Webb and UAB in 2007.
"I think our fans that come to the game know players that are from their hometown that they can watch playing for Alcorn (State), as well as Alcorn fans coming up here to watch our players play," head coach Dan Mullen said. "I think the opportunity to play these games is a real benefit for the state of Mississippi and the people of Mississippi, for all our fans a great opportunity who haven't been to the university before to come up and see it. We're hoping to get our seventh consecutive sellout and I know there are some tickets still available and hopefully we will sell this out so we can continue to play these in-state rivals and continue what we hope to be an every year tradition of playing one of the in-state teams from the SWAC."
In the past four games, nine different players on the offense side have at least one rushing attempt and 11 different players have at least one reception. Against the Auburn Tigers, nine different receivers caught at least one pass apiece. Last season only 13 Bulldogs caught passes all season long.
"Last year we had (Anthony) Dixon and anytime we has doubt something we could just hand him the ball," said sophomore receiver Chad Bumphis. "Now we are more wide open we spread the ball out a little more we got smaller and quicker backs and we got a lot more wide receivers that have come along. So I think the thing is we are just spreading the ball out more."
Senior linebacker K.J. Wright has been all over the field the last two weeks. Wright was credited with 12 total tackles, one-half tackle for loss and a pass breakup against LSU. In the victory over Georgia, Wright posted seven tackles, one-half sack, one-half tackle for loss and recorded four pass breakups and three quarterback hurries. Of Georgia's 13 incompletions, Wright had a hand in forcing seven. His four pass breakups were the most by a Bulldog linebacker since Conner Stephens had four against Middle Tennessee in 2000.
"K.J. is playing up to his ability and I think he took a step forward in trying to be a leader of the defense. We've really tried to challenge our leaders to continue to step up. We've got a new defensive scheme this year and I think he is getting much more comfortable in the scheme which allows him to be a little bit better leader. We need him. He and Chris are the inside linebackers and we need those guys to be the leaders of the defense and we need them to be strong leaders and strong players in our scheme."
The Dog pack will likely have to face the Braves without fellow Bulldogs defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and tight end Marcus Green.
"Fletcher is doubtful for this weekend with an ankle sprain. The two tight ends ran, but Marcus' injury is a little bit more severe than Brandon's but he just spoke with the trainers just a couple of minutes ago and we fully expect him to play this weekend. Marcus is still going to be day to day in how he goes and he still has a little bit of swelling. He ran at practice a little bit yesterday and had some swelling today so we just have to see how he feels tomorrow."
The Bulldogs will travel to the Lone Star State to contend against Houston next Saturday.