We asked For Whom The Cowbell Tolls to come to talk Mississippi State football with the Gator Bowl about three weeks away. He talked about all-everything DB Johnthan Banks, what a win would mean for the Bulldogs, and, um, the cowbell thing.
We're too lazy to actually go ahead and learn anything about other teams, so we bring in people who know stuff about those teams so we don't have to sound like complete blowhards.
Today: Metal Building Dawg from For Whom the Cowbell Tolls
SoP: It would seem like the transition from 7-0 to 8-4 would mainly have to do with the quality of Mississippi State's opponents increasing as the year went on. Is that it, or was there a change in MSU's play?
FWTCT: The quality of our opponents after starting 7-0 definitely increased. Playing at Alabama, followed up by Johnny Football at his peak, then at LSU was a tough stretch. I don't really think there was anything MSU could have done to win those games because those teams are just better this year, plain and simple. But State compounded the problems which caused lop-sided scores. We relied on turnovers all year long, and were leading the nation in TO margin going into the Bama game, but we didn't get any during that three game stretch, and I believe we were -5. We couldn't run the ball either, which happens to a lot of teams facing those three. The Texas A&M game was by far the worst because of the lack of tackling, poor defensive scheme and what seemed like poor effort. The LSU game wasn't bad, State played pretty well. The Ole Miss game was bad in every way, shape and form. They wanted it more, and State played very poorly, Tyler Russell had his worst game of the year.
Johnthan Banks won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back, but then I look and see the Bulldogs allowed 173 receiving yards and three touchdowns to Donte Moncrief in the Egg Bowl. Was that a freak incident, or something that could happen frequently against MSU's defense? How good is Banks?
Our defensive schemes are really dumb. We have the best cornerback in the country, a sure 1st round draft pick, and another corner - Darius Slay - who will probably get drafted. Instead of playing man with those two, we continually play zone. And then we blitz Banks and leave the safety in coverage....dumb. I hate it. On Moncrief's 70+ yard TD, that is what happened, blitzed Banks and left the safety on him and got burned. But Moncrief is an excellent WR, so I can understand getting beat a few times in a game, it's going to happen. Banks is really good, but like I say, our zone defense is tiresome, we bend but don't break - at least we're supposed to, so the underneath routes are almost always there.
What can we expect from Mississippi State's offense? Is it still fun to say the word "Bumphis"?'
I like to call him 'Bump'. He is obviously our best guy right now. Chris Smith and Arceto Clark have been serviceable WR. Tyler Russell is a very good quarterback, probably the best passing QB we've ever had at MSU...he set every major single-season passing record in school history this year. The offensive line is getting steadily better, I would grade them at a C+ by SEC standards. Our running backs are talented, but run blocking is probably where we are most deficient. We really lack a power running game, or any threat to run from the QB, so unless NW just has a poor run defense I'd just be concerned about Russell throwing the ball.
It seems that, like Northwestern, MSU has historically been mediocre or worse. Is that a fair assessment, and what direction is the program headed in now? What would a Gator Bowl win - your third bowl victory in three seasons - mean to Mississippi State?
Yes, MSU has been historically mediocre, or worse. We had one of our best stretches in history from 1997-2000, then followed it up with our worst stretch in history from 2001-06, now we are going to 3 straight bowl games, so it's a roller coaster. The way the season ended, and with the Egg Bowl loss - especially the nature of it, has left a bitter taste in a lot of MSU fans' mouth. I think the general feeling is that we should win the Gator Bowl because we are from the SEC and NW is from the Big Ten, but I don't think that has any bearing because it is a tough game to call objectively. So I'd say a win will have people feeling good but not excited, but a loss will probably incite internet riots calling for some blood - most likely DC Chris Wilson.
You guys have won five straight bowl games, tied for the longest streak in the NCAA. Northwestern has lost eight straight. Or maybe nine. Regardless, that's the longest streak in the NCAA too. Anyway, HOW DO YOU DO IT PLEASE TELL US AND WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE
Well, we played Clemson in 1999 and we were 9-2, they were 6-5, so that explains that. We beat Texas A&M in a blizzard in 2000, great game in overtime. Then we beat Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl, 10-3...a close one vs. C-USA. In 2010 we creamed Michigan 52-14...I'm sure some of it had to do with Rich Rod on the way out, but we also came to play and were bigger and stronger than that 7-5 Michigan team. Then last year we beat a 6-6 Wake Forest team. So all in all, it's been mostly because we haven't played elite teams, but we've also played pretty well too. I would say this game vs. NW is the toughest one since we played Texas and Ricky Williams in the 1998 Cotton Bowl.
Do the cowbells stop being annoying if you get to clang one of them too, or do you just kinda live with it?
I've never really been a big proponent of constant cowbell ringing, just clang for big moments. There are really 3 types of cowbell ringers: 1. those who respect the rules of the bell and just ring at the appropriate times, i.e. after touchdowns, timeouts, etc. 2. those who ring constantly and never stop and you want to strangle them. 3. those who get really mad when the slightest thing goes wrong and they bang their cowbell against the bleacher - this is really annoying. The cowbells are really loud, and that's the point. Everyone else thinks they are annoying, so that just makes it better when we win.
And finally, a prediction for the game?
I'm hoping for a Mississippi State victory, obviously. It will probably be high scoring, I'll go with 31-28.