MSU-Oklahoma State Pregame: Evans, James Left at Home; Eight Freshmen Make Trip

Today’s game: Mississippi State (0-0) vs. No. 13 Oklahoma State (0-0), 2:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN2 (Bob Wischusen play-by-play, Rod Gilmore analyst, Quint Kessenich sideline), XM 91/200, Sirius 91/113

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HOUSTON | The season opener is upon us, and the most interesting pregame news – and this is always a hot topic for the season opener – is who’s here and who isn’t. So here’s a rundown of who made the trip for MSU and who got left at home.

• Sophomore defensive tackles Quay Evans and Nick James are not here. A team spokesman said we’ll have to wait until after the game to find out why they’re not here. Last season, Evans appeared in 10 games and made seven tackles, forced one fumble and had a fumble recovery. James posted six tackles in eight games. Neither player was listed on MSU’s two-deep in this week’s game notes.

• There are eight true freshmen on the travel roster: CB Tolando Cleveland, DB Kivon Coman, DE Chris Jones, WR Fred Ross, TE Artimas Samuel, RB Ashton Shumpert, QB Damian Williams and WR De’Runnya Wilson. Coman and Samuel both went to Hargrave Military last year and went through spring practices with MSU.

• On the injury front: Also here is backup middle linebacker Ferlando Bohanna, who earlier in the week was listed as questionable for today’s game due to a concussion. Not here today is backup tight end Rufus Warren, who has an ankle injury.

• MSU brought seven receivers to Houston.

OK, remember to follow me on Twitter for updates throughout the day. Let’s review MSU’s three keys to victory, as found in Thursday’s GameDay section.

1. Respect the run. Oklahoma State’s passing game has earned plenty of well-deserved attention, but MSU’s defense can’t lose track of the running game. The pass sets up the run nicely for OSU, which last season ranked 21st nationally in rushing offense, averaging 215.3 yards per game.

Gone from that team, though, is Joseph Randle, who gained 1,457 yards and scored 14 touchdowns. There are some capable returnees, with Jeremy Smith (371 yards, eight TDs) and Desmond Roland (301, four) leading the attack this year behind an offensive line that’s been one of the best in the Big 12 year after year.

2. Hold the middle. Oklahoma State has a pair of tough tackles in Calvin Barnett and James Castleman, who last year combined for 60 tackles and 15 tackles-for-loss. Both of them are pushing 300 pounds and will test the strength of MSU’s offensive line – the interior.

That group is led by first-team All-SEC pick Gabe Jackson at left guard and veteran center Dillon Day. The one question mark could be sophomore right guard Justin Malone, who has some experience but is pulling full-time duty for the first time.

3. Win field position. Oklahoma State’s explosive offense can cover a lot of ground, but there’s no sense in MSU giving it a short field. That’s where the punt coverage unit, which was the best in the nation last year, can play an important role.

OSU had 11 offensive plays of 50-plus yards last year, while MSU’s defense allowed only two plays of such distance. Something has to give.

• Notable stat: MSU is 4-0 in season openers under Dan Mullen.

 Weather: Outside Reliant Stadium, it’s hot. Inside, with the roof closed, it feels great. By the way, this game is being played on artificial turf.

I am the online content coordinator for DJournal.com. Previously at the Journal, I covered Mississippi State athletics (2008-13), high schools (2004-08), and was on the copy desk (2002-04). I'm working on a recipe for bacon-flavored coffee, which would solve all the world's problems.

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Posted in Football
  • mammmadawg

    Gonna be a looooooooooooooong year. No offense. Defense improved, but still sub-par..Play calling is sickening. Poor coaching is sooooo obvious with mistakes and penalties on every hand. Appears we need to bench Russel and concentrate on developing Dak. We need a major regrouping!!!!!!

  • Brendan Duffy

    I thought that Les (and Tyler) were the main obstacles to us having a good year. After listening to Mullen in the post game, watching him look bewildered and chew on the play card the entire game, and seeing how poorly we produced, I have to wonder if the problems are at the top. That was sorry, and Mullen doesn’t seem fazed by how pathetic it was.

    • ezfreeze

      I hate to admit it, but you are absolutely correct…

      The play calling is horrible… And when they do make the right call, Tyler looks lost in big games…

      • w. Martin

        What yall all are saying is 100% on the money. Mullen is going to do just like Croom did staying with Willie Mc till they were both fired..If Mullen stays with this OC they both should be fired at the same time. After five or six up the middle run plays on third down did not work I think you would try something else..We just keep running up the middle until we went what was it ,2 for 13..Get rid of that OC now..

  • Guest

    I’ve been wondering how long it would take for more folks to realize that Mullen is not a great coach. Maybe after a 4-5 win season more folks will realize it. #FireMullen

  • Wesley Grissom

    Wow how badly can you overreact to one game? Tyler Russell was not on his game today before he got hurt for sure. Lets not forget that he had the best year in school history last season. The defense for the most part looked really good to me today. I do believe that the offensive coordinator needs to play more to our strengths and thats Perkins. We have too much inexperience in the WR corp to throw it as much as we did last year. Koening needs to ride Perkins and if Tyler is out for a while then we need to lean on the read option with Perkins and Prescott.

    Honestly people Oklahoma State is probably the best team in the Big 12, other than on offense this was a good showing against that level of competition. In the grand scheme of things its one game its not time to panic.

    I am curious though all you people that are asking for Mullen to be fired who would take this job and do a better job than him? Lets face it our program is not and never has been a sought after job. The only type coach we could get would be a coordinator getting his first coaching job then you guys will want him fired. Patience my friends patience.

    • ezfreeze

      Having his best year in school history isn’t saying much at QB since the stats in our our history have never been that great…

      It isn’t the end of the world, and I would hope that Tyler Russell would play great all the time… When we need him most, seems feel the pressure and he lets gets to him and he struggles…

      I agree… Mullen shouldn’t lose his job, but seriously, Les Koening may bring him down… Our OC can’t call plays to save his life…

      If MSU has a HUGE big play, you may never see that play called again…

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