VTF: The last time BYU came to Starkville was 2001, and BYU won. 41-38. So it’s been awhile. Can we talk about the cowbells? I don’t remember that game 16 years ago. How bad is this going to be? And are you expecting much out of traveling Cougar fans? We tend to travel pretty well, but haven’t had all that much experience in SEC Country.
Evan: As much as I would love to tell you to anticipate a deafening roar that will keep your ears ringing until Tuesday, the environment that the Cougars will walk into won't be quite on that level. That is for a multitude of reasons, but the largest one being that this is an 11 a.m. local kickoff. Less than ideal. Starkville is not a large town by any means so that requires a good bit of fans from around Mississippi to travel for games to create the ideal gameday environment. A kickoff that's as early as this one won't lend those fans any favors, as well as the students that make up arguably the loudest part of the stadium in the end zone. With that said, cowbells are still louder than can truly be imagined without actually hearing them live and in-person. Be prepared for some volume, but you can leave the ear plugs at home.
As far as traveling fans, I truly don't expect to see any more than I would for any other non-conference game. That's not to make any knocks on BYU fans, but Provo isn't quite Birmingham in terms of travel and Starkville isn't necessarily at the top of the "must see" college town lists. But do not let me discourage you! If you come to Starkville for a game, you'lI meet some of the nicest people in the world. I do hope to see more blue and white than I think I will, games are more fun when the other fans are there too. Cougar fans, come one, come all, we would love to have you.
VTF: Looking at the Bulldogs’ offensive statistics, the names that jump out at you are Aeris Williams and Keith Mixon. Aeris has rushed for 409 yards on the season, Mixon has 169 receiving yards. Are those the names we’ll hear most Saturday? Who else is in the mix?
Evan: Those are the two stars of the offense for sure, and yes, I would fully expect about 60-75 percent of the offense run trough the two of them. Williams is proving to be a very special running back, despite some struggles in the past two weeks, but we now know that those were a couple of the best defenses in the nation. Mixon has also emerged as one of Nick Fitzgerald's most reliable receivers, and he'll play an important role Saturday in establishing the passing game early. Some other names to know would be Donald Gray and Deddrick Thomas. They are the only other receivers that have eclipsed the 100 mark for receiving yards on the year, and Gray is one of the elder statesman of the corps as one of two seniors leading the way.
VTF: You’ve obviously got a really good quarterback in Nick Fitzgerald. Are you more or less seeing what you’ve hoped to see out of him this year? Is there maybe one area where he’s lived up to expectations, and another where he’s still lacking?
Evan: Well, taking the entire season into account and trying not to overreact on the two most recent games, Fitzgerald's season has been slightly below the level of quarterbacking than I expected. He has never struggled running the ball and that is where he has found most of his success, but being that one dimensional has been a problem. I like that he has been fairly solid as far as his decision making, limiting himself to five interceptions in five games.
The number one thing I want to see from Fitz moving forward would be for him to improve his overall accuracy. I've seen too many passes from him this season just plain miss his receivers. It's frustrating to watch a team try to move forward developmentally when the QB can't get the ball to his WRs, to get them in the best position to make plays.
VTF: The Bulldogs stand at 3-2. (A record that we’re envious of.) We want to know (aside from the sheer talent and athleticism both squads possess), what did Georgia and Auburn do against MSU that worked to shut you guys down?
Evan: They made Fitzgerald look like a freshman QB playing in his first snaps, and took Williams out of the offensive equation completely. Both defenses dominated the Bulldogs on every single front in those games. Our O-Line looked helpless many times, filling in any semblance for a hole for Williams or Fitzgerald. Once they shut down our front five, the rest fell into place. Receivers weren't being given time to get open because Fitzgerald didn't have the time to set up and go through his progressions and so on and so forth. Every time Dan Mullen thought he had a move, they were there to counter. Fortunately, I don't think BYU will pose quite the same threat.
VTF: You asked us if Mississippi State would cover the 23.5 point spread, or if BYU will make it interesting. I answered from a BYU fan’s perspective, now I want to hear yours. Are you laying the points?
Evan: The homer in me wants to drop my life's savings on MSU to cover 23.5, but I've watched far too many years of Bulldogs athletics to actually do that. That's not to say that I think we don't cover, though. The Bulldogs have not played at home now in three weeks and to a large degree, it feels like we haven't even played a game in three weeks because of how non-competitive the games versus Auburn and Georgia were. I have to believe that Mullen has his boys ready to play in front of their home crowd again and that they're hungry to beat the crap out of someone to get this season back on track. Right now, a lot of MSU fans are uncertain as to how the rest of this season will play out after getting hopes sky high in week 3. A big time win should put things back in order to move onto the second half of the schedule. MSU covers -23.5.