September 6, 2008

Bulldogs look to restart season against SELA

Coming off the heels of an embarrassing loss at Louisiana Tech in its season opener, Mississippi State needed a game to work out some kinks.

Enter Southeastern Louisiana.

The Bulldogs hope to be able to fine-tune some early mistakes that led to five turnovers last week in a 22-14 loss. Unlike their previous outing, State will get to play in front of the faithful at Davis Wade Stadium.

"It's good to be back home again," said MSU head coach Sylvester Croom "We need to get home here and get back on the right track hopefully playing Southeastern Louisiana."

Sophomore quarterback Wesley Carroll threw three interceptions in the opener hitting on 12-of-25 passing for 172 yards and a touchdown.

Despite his lackluster play in game one, Croom gave Carroll his full endorsement this week by dropping the two-quarterback system he shared with junior Tyson Lee.

"Wes Carroll is our quarterback," Croom said. "We'll win, lose, sink or swim with him. Tyson may play in a back-up capacity but until the game is in control, Wes will be out there."

Lee saw his first action for State in last Saturday's loss. Lee completed 10-of-15 passing for 85 yards and also found his target on seven of his first eight attempts. But with Lee under center in the fourth quarter the Bulldogs failed to achieve a first down that could have played a part in Croom's decision.

Mississippi State also committed two turnovers on special teams. The Bulldogs fumbled a kickoff return and muffed a punt while usual returnman Derek Pegues was serving a one-game suspension for violating the universities academic attendance policy.

Pegues' suspension has been served and Croom feels like his return will not only prevent any mistakes in the kicking game, it will also strengthen a secondary that recorded two interceptions at Louisiana Tech.

"He's our best football player," Croom said of Pegues. "I fully expect him to make an impact in a lot of ways.

Another player who should make his 2008 debut will be sophomore left tackle Derek Sherrod. Sherrod has missed the past week and a half with an infected foot but is expected to take the field against the Lions. Sherrod ran sprints on Wednesday and participated in limited practice sessions on Thursday leading Croom to bring in Sherrod as a reserve instead of starting him.

There maybe another player introducing himself to Bulldog fans for the first time. Redshirt freshman Robert Elliott will likely make his debut for the maroon and white after being held out against Louisiana Tech.

"He will play this week," Croom said. "He's going to have to work very hard to improve his protection and we'll do that. We want to see if we can get him some touches this week."

This will be the first ever meeting between the two schools. The Bulldogs have went scoreless and dropped their past two home openers to SEC foes South Carolina and LSU. State has been outscored 60-0 in those past two contests.

There is good news considering Croom's record against non-SEC opponents in openers. The fifth-year coach won his first two openers against Tulane and Murray State. The Bulldogs have also won their last three non-conference tilts dating back to Jacksonville State in 2006.

MSU will welcome a 1-0 Lion team to Starkville after posting an opening week win over another Magnolia State school. Southeastern Louisiana outlasted Alcorn State 34-28 last week to kickoff the 2008 campaign.

The Lions totaled 305 yards of offense in their opener with 251 yards via the passing game while 54 came on the ground.

Southeastern Louisiana will be without the services of starting quarterback Brian Babin for today's contest. Babin suffered a concussion against the Braves and did not make the trip to Starkville. Before being knocked out, Bablin had hit on 12-of-20 passing for 143 yards and three scores.

"We expect him to be out a couple of weeks," said Southeastern Louisiana head coach Mike Lucas. "He was unconscious there for a while on the field. We're going to keep a close watch on him. He did not make the trip with us. We just brought the travel squad up here. We've got a quarterback that we had planned on redshirting who's family had already evacuated by the time we got back so we couldn't get him to go with us. Now we've got two quarterbacks on the trip so hopefully we can make it through with (Mike) Neville and Tyler Beatty."

Neville will earn the start under center after completing 13-of-17 passing for 108 yards with one touchdown and one interception in relief of Bablin last week.

Jay Lucas led the Lion rushing attack in the opener with 41 yards on 11 carries and also caught eight passes out of the backfield for 45 yards in the opener.

On defense, Southeastern Louisiana surrendered 368 yards to the Braves. The Lions gave up 253 yards passing and 115 yards rushing in their debut.

But shortly after returning home to Hammond, La., after the game, Southeastern Louisiana was back on their bus after being evacuated due to Hurricane Gustav. The Lions made the trek to Oxford and have been splitting practice time with Ole Miss this week.

Lucas said he was concerned that there were not too many areas where his team matched-up favorably against the Bulldogs.

"They looked pretty physical against Louisiana Tech," Lucas said. "They are physical on both sides of the football. Their running back (Dixon) is tough. Seeing that second quarterback (Lee), he did some really nice things to the package that we hadn't seen from last year. We've got to go in there and play our best ball game and try to stay on the field with them."

Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m.

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