Southern Miss

Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen expects a motivated Ole Miss squad

Arkansas receiver T.J. Hammonds is tackled by Mississippi State defenders Gerri Green (left) and Cory Thomas on Saturday in Fayetteville, Ark.
Arkansas receiver T.J. Hammonds is tackled by Mississippi State defenders Gerri Green (left) and Cory Thomas on Saturday in Fayetteville, Ark. Associated Press

Saturday’s celebration at Arkansas was short-lived for Dan Mullen, his staff and the Mississippi State football team.

The No. 16 Bulldogs came from behind to knock off the Razorbacks in Fayetteville 28-21 and move to 8-3 on the season and 4-3 in Southeastern Conference play. Mullen and his coaches flew back on separate planes to get back to Starkville and prepare for Thursday’s Egg Bowl against Ole Miss.

“The second you got off the plane, it became Sunday morning where the game is behind us,” Mullen said. “That was a hard-fought win, but hopefully we get a win on Thursday and we can celebrate both of them on Friday and Saturday.”

Ole Miss and MSU meet on Thanksgiving night in Starkville with little on the line but bragging rights. The Rebels are 5-6 but have no shot at bowl eligibility due to self-imposed sanctions from the NCAA investigation.

All the two teams need for motivation is who is on the other sideline.

“I’m usually making sure we have a great, exciting environment and creating that home field advantage for us,” Mullen said. “I don’t think I have to do that this week. I think they’ll be pretty excited. Playing a game on Thanksgiving night is such a cool deal.”

Despite the impending sanctions on the way any day, Mullen has felt that the Rebels have handled the adversity well enough.

“They play hard. They’re doing fairly well. It doesn’t seem like they’re a team distracted by all of the issues that surround their program right now,” Mullen said. “Obviously, that’s not a great situation to be in as a coach with all the uncertainty, but from what I’ve seen that hasn’t been a distraction to them.”

Two Bulldogs honored

Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald was named a Finalist for the Conerly Trophy on Monday. Fitzgerald is closing in on his second-straight 1,000-yard rushing season with 968 yards and 14 touchdowns. He’s also thrown for 1,770 yards and 15 scores.

Monday also brought good news for defensive end Montez Sweat. The junior was named the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week for the third time this season after putting up a career high 2.5 sacks against Arkansas, the most in a game for the Bulldogs since 2010. Sweat has 40 tackles and leads the team in tackles for loss (11.5) as well as sacks (9.0). He’s the second Bulldog with nine sacks in a season under Mullen, joining Preston Smith.

Injury Update

The Bulldogs are likely as healthy as they’re going to be this late in the season but Mullen announced on Monday that one player will not finish his career on the field for MSU.

Senior Donald Gray’s career in Starkville is done after he had sport hernia surgery last week. Gray is MSU’s leading receiver with 24 catches for 214 yards and three touchdowns, but has missed the last three games after going down with an injury at Texas A&M.

Along with Gray, senior linebacker Dez Harris is doubtful on Thursday with a deep thigh bruise that he suffered against Alabama.

In good news, MSU is expected to add wide receiver Keith Mixon back to the fold and could also see senior wide out Gabe Myles return for the first time since the Kentucky game. Myles has missed seven games this year and Mixon has missed three.

Game plan

Who: Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State

When: 6:30 p.m., Saturday

Where: Starkville

TV: ESPN

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