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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

    Bulldogs head to Little Rock, shoot for first win in Arkansas capital

    The Mississippi State Bulldogs and the Arkansas Razorbacks will take the field Saturday at 11:20 a.m. in Little Rock – an unfriendly place for the Bulldogs.
    MSU is 0-4-1 in Little Rock and 0-4 since a 1993 tie, which was the first time the Bulldogs traveled to the city. However, the Bulldogs got the best of the Razorbacks last season and are playing for bowl life. MSU head coach Dan Mullen said he knows what lies ahead.
    “We’ve got our work cut out for us this weekend with a tough road trip, but every road trip in the SEC is tough,” Mullen said. “We’ll have to come out and play hard, and we still have the opportunity to win our last two games and become bowl-eligible.”
    Arkansas presents a tough opponent, at least offensively. Defensively, the Razorbacks are the worst in the SEC, allowing 412 yards per game. The offensive side of the ball is where the Hogs stand out, averaging the most points (37.6) and yards (450) per game in the SEC. The most important key to the Arkansas offense is sophomore quarterback Ryan Mallet. Mallet leads the SEC in pass yards per game with 288.2. Mullen said he knows the Razorback offense will be hard to handle.
    “They’ve got an explosive offense that leads the conference in several offensive categories,” Mullen said. “I believe their quarterback [Ryan Mallett] is the best passing quarterback we have faced so far. They, as a team, do the little things right, which helps you win football games.”
    The Razorback offense also features a couple of talented running backs who can catch the ball out of the backfield, as well as tote it. Michael Smith and Broderick Green provide some lightning and thunder, but the Hogs practice frequent substitution to keep fresh legs running at all times. Senior linebacker Jamar Chaney wants to get down to the basics against Arkansas.
    “As a defense, we have to do our job, play assignment football and make sure we do what the coaches tell us to do and not just be out there freelancing and doing our own thing,” Chaney said. “We have a good gameplan every week, and it’s up to us to execute the gameplan.”
    The Bulldogs will need more than a solid gameplan to win. The Bulldog secondary, which leads the country in pick-sixes, will also need one of its better days against Mallet. The Bulldog passing attack can ill-afford a shootout.
    Offensively, the Bulldogs must exploit the Razorbacks’ league-worst pass defense. MSU has struggled passing the ball but will need the passing game to open up the run. Opening up the run is important because the Bulldogs’ success hinges on Anthony Dixon, the Bulldogs senior running back. Last week against a scrooge-like Alabama defense, Dixon mustered a tough 81 yards on the ground and 59 yards receiving. His valiant effort was the majority of the Bulldog offensive production.
    Last season, Dixon ripped the Arkansas defense for 179 yards on the ground, and Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino said he certainly took notice.
    “He’s big, and he’s physical,” Petrino said. “We did not do a good job of tackling him last year, so we need to do better this year. We need to get more bodies to the football to slow him down.”
    Dixon has no plans of slowing down. With just two games left, and four wins to show for 2009, the Bulldogs must win out to become eligible for postseason bowl eligibility. MSU’s bowl aspirations have been well-documented, and it is finally time to put up or shut up. Dixon said he plans to lead the team into the gauntlet.
    “I don’t know how much they believe right now,” Dixon said. “But you know I’m going to try to get them to believe 100 percent. I think our team knows that we’re good enough to play with anybody, good enough to beat anybody. But just playing with them isn’t going to get it.”

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    Bulldogs head to Little Rock, shoot for first win in Arkansas capital