Skyhawks enjoying SEC experience
Posted: Friday, November 4, 2011 12:02 pm
By KEVIN WEAKS
Jason Simpson has taken his UT Martin teams to a place like this before.
He simply wants his players to enjoy the ride.
While winning is, obviously, the ultimate goal of any game, no matter the opponent or the odds, the Skyhawk head coach sees his team’s trip into Southeastern Conference territory as an experience the players can learn from and soak in.
“You want them to enjoy this week,” Simpson said. “This is a neat experience for them. We’ll go to the stadium on Friday where we normally go straight to the hotel because we’ve seen all the OVC stadiums. I want them to experience the atmosphere. We’re playing them on homecoming. I hope the cowbells are loud. I want them to experience and draw upon all that. When you get 11 games, you have to make the most of every one. It’s a great opportunity, and our players will have that memory the rest of their lives.”
UT Martin will be the homecoming opponent for Mississippi State, kickoff from Davis Wade Stadium at 6:30 p.m., with the game to be televised on CSS.
Simpson knows what going into an SEC stadium is all about. Arguably the premier major college football league in the nation, a statement backed up by five consecutive national championships, SEC teams are rich in tradition and have an almost rabid fan following. At MSU, those two things come together in a full house ringing the famous — or infamous, depending on the point of view — cowbells.
Under Simpson, the Skyhawks have made trips to Auburn and Knoxville prior to this visit to Starkville.
He knows what Mississippi State brings to the table and what will have to happen for his team to have a chance.
“Mississippi State is still hungry, still trying to hang on in the SEC West and get a bowl game,” Simpson said. “There’s no secret to a game like this. I know it, and their coaches know it. We can’t have turnovers, and we have to get some breaks.
“No FCS team wins one of these without the ball bouncing your way and getting some stops on defense. It won’t be any different than any other upset.”
Simpson will have to tweak the game plan to adjust to the five-star athletes the Bulldogs will put on the field, but he also knows the playbook can’t be completely be rewritten in a week.
“The plan has to change some,” he said. “There are some things you have to take into consideration to give your team the best chance to win. Now, saying that, we only have two days to change, so we can’t do that much. We’ll do things the people outside maybe won’t see to increase our odds.”
UTM comes into a game with a 5-3 overall record, while Mississippi State is 4-4.
“They have four losses, but look at those four,” Simpson said. “They can be very suffocating on defense. They can bring pressure and make you get rid of the ball.”
All four Bulldog losses have come to teams currently ranked in the Top 25 — 41-34 to Auburn, 19-6 to LSU, 24-10 to Georgia and 14-12 to South Carolina.
MSU currently ranks 18th in the nation in scoring defense at 18.9 points a game and 31st in total yards at 336.3 yards per contest. Published in The WCP 11.3.11