Mississippi State

Mississippi State not overlooking Samford

Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald is tackled by Kentucky defensive back Blake McClain last week. The Bulldogs will play Samford on homecoming Saturday in Starkville.
Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald is tackled by Kentucky defensive back Blake McClain last week. The Bulldogs will play Samford on homecoming Saturday in Starkville. Associated Press

A homecoming game against a lesser opponent is just what the doctor ordered for a struggling team.

Mississippi State (2-5) faces a tough Samford squad at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Davis Wade Stadium.

Samford (6-1) is ranked in the FCS Top 20.

“When you watch this team, a lot of blowout victories and very explosive offense,” MSU coach Dan Mullen said. “They have a great quarterback (Devlin Hodges) completing over 70 percent of his passes. They have some explosive running backs making big plays.

“They have great wideouts, execute at a very high level on offense, put up a ton of yards and a ton of points and then they’re very physical on defense.”

Hodges is leading an offense that averages 461 yards a game, including 363 passing. The redshirt sophomore will make things difficult on a struggling MSU secondary that has often allowed big plays.

“Your seniors have to do a good job of setting the tempo for the guys on the team in setting the standard for everybody,” Mullen said. “There are guys who are working at that. We’ve had a lot of injuries in the senior class, and I think it leads to some inconsistency.”

If the seniors aren’t willing to step into leadership roles, the Bulldogs’ younger players are ready.

One of those players is redshirt freshman running back Nick Gibson, who played at Kentucky last week. Gibson carried the ball five times for 24 yards. Gibson should get more opportunities against Samford.

“I stay focused because this has always been a dream for me,” Gibson said. “Ever since I was young, this has always been a dream for me to play in the SEC and play in the NFL. I’m really just having fun.”

Mullen hopes the Bulldogs can find ways to win close games.

“You’ve got to win. It’s just the confidence of winning the game,” Mullen said. “We found a way to lose games on the last play of the game three different ways too. It’s not like ‘uh-oh, here we go again’ with just this situation.’’

“We’ve managed to kind of cover it all. I’ve never been in this situation where in a single season I’ve lost three games on the final play; not just the final drive or the final possession, on the final play of the game in one season.”

The Bulldogs have several injuries, including safety Kivon Coman, running back Brandon Holloway and guard Deion Calhoun. All are listed as questionable. Guard Darryl Williams is expected to miss at least one week.

Samford at Mississippi State

When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Davis Wade Stadium, Starkville

Radio: 1490-AM, 1640-AM

TV: SEC Network

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