We had the opportunity to catch up with our friend Evan Ertel of fellow SB Nation site For Whom the Cowbell Tolls and ask him a few questions about the Bulldogs.
VTF: BYU's Jamaal Williams is the second in the nation with 866 rushing yards and leads the nation in most forced missed tackles with 35. How does Mississippi State match up against a power running attack from BYU?
Evan Ertel: Not well to be completely honest. Last week our offensive line was repeatedly gashed for long gains. MSU's defense gave up 228 rushing yards with Auburn's RB leading the way with 169 yards by himself on a 4.3 YPC.
VTF: Nick Fitzgerald has received a lot of praise from head coach Dan Mullen, saying that he could be a better passer than former MSU great Dak Prescott. Outside of the UMass game he hasn't looked the part. Will this be the week that the Bulldogs get things going through the air?
Evan: I truly hope so because last week was atrocious. Fred Ross was supposed to be our offensive star this season and he has yet to fill his expected role. I hope this game is the one where Ross and Fitzgerald get on the same page and start looking like what we hoped to see.
VTF: The last time Mississippi State came to Provo they dominated thanks in part to three (THREE!) defensive touchdowns. Who are the playmakers on the MSU defense who could cause similar havoc to what we saw back in 2000?
Evan: If we see that sort of defensive game from MSU, I will personally write a thank you letter to DC Peter Sirmon. The players I would keep an eye on mostly are Leo Lewis, Jonathan Calvin, and AJ Jefferson. All three have incredible motors and hopefully will have enough pent-up frustration that they release the wild beasts inside of them and wreak havoc on BYU.
VTF: In addition to his quarterbacking duties Nick Fitzgerald is also the leading rusher for Mississippi State. Who are the other players on the Bulldog offense that BYU fans should be aware of?
Evan: Malik Dear has the potential to be a playmaker, that is, if we can get him the ball. He hasn't seen as much play time this season as most fans would like but has shown to be useful in the passing game. RB Ashton Shumpert is still looking for his breakout game this season so I would watch him to be hungry when his number is called.
VTF: All but one of BYU's games have been decided by three points or less, with two victories coming on last second field goals. Does Mississippi State have clutch special teams units that could be a difference in the game?
Evan: "Clutch" is almost the exact opposite word I would use to describe our special teams. I'm not sure if you remember, but our season-opening loss was due to a missed field goal as time expired. If this game comes down to special teams, go ahead and chalk it up as an MSU loss.
VTF: Just curious, how the heck did the cowbell become the official noisemaker of Mississippi State? Those things are so gosh dang loud.
Evan: Well, the most widely accepted story is that during a football game against Ole Miss in the 1930's, MSU was down a few points and somehow a cow wandered onto the field during the game causing a stoppage. So, once the game was resumed after the cow was gotten off the field, MSU rallied to win the game and the current student body decided that it was thanks to the cow. After a few years of bringing the cow to the game, it was decided that was too much trouble and was substituted with the more portable symbol of a cowbell. It also just so happens it's a wonderful noise maker as well.
VTF: How do you see the game playing out?
Evan: I want to say that after last week, Dan Mullen whipped his team into shape at practice due to the lack of effort seen on the field against Auburn. But my heart just does not agree. Honestly, I think the squad is still looking for true leadership on the field and fail to ever fully get into the game. MSU loses in Provo by two TD's.