MSU's Moorhead prepares for first Egg Bowl

Mississippi State football coach Joe Moorhead, left

Staff Writer

Joe Moorhead’s feet had barely set foot on Mississippi soil late last year before he was made aware of the importance of the annual Battle for the Golden Egg.

Upon his hire as Mississippi State head coach, Moorhead arrived in Starkville at Bryan Airfield last November, stepped off the plane, greeted fans and was told one of his biggest tasks as leader of the Bulldogs was to beat the instate rival Ole Miss Rebels.

Moorhead will get his first chance to do that on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. when No. 22 MSU battles Ole Miss in Oxford.

“When I got off the plane (last November) and started shaking hands and signing autographs and walked around the fence, there were a few people that kind of relayed the importance of the game and what it means,” Moorhead recalled at his weekly press conference Monday. “That happened pretty quick, then (MSU President Mark) Keenum (talked about the Egg Bowl) in his office after the press conference. Really everybody you see in town and around the state, there’s a lot of passion. This game has all the ingredients of what makes college football and a great rivalry special. It’s two great opponents with proximity, familiarity, tradition, history and really, quite frankly most importantly, a lot of players from the state who have played with or against each other. That’s what makes this game unique and special.”

Moorhead is no stranger to coaching in rivalry games. However this will undoubtedly be a unique experience for him.

He was an offensive coordinator at Penn State the last two seasons as the Nittany Lions battled Pittsburgh. As head coach at Fordham, Moorhead had rivalry matchups too, but he knows Thursday will be a different deal.
“Fordham–Holy Cross doesn’t really carry the panache of Mississippi State–Ole Miss,” Moorhead said.

Moorhead knows the game will be emotional. It always is. However, Moorhead says, for his first Egg Bowl, he believes one of the keys will be the Bulldogs adhering to something he has preached all season long – showing emotions without being overly emotional.

“They’re going to be fired up,” Moorhead said of his team. “I think that kind of stands on its own merit. No form of inflammatory rhetoric from me is needed to get them fired up. That’s going to last for about a series or half of a quarter, then ultimately, when that wears off, you’re going to fall back on your preparation and you’re going to win the game because of your effort and execution.

"Whether or not I do a pre-game Knute Rockne speech to fire them up and put my fist through a white board, they’ll get fired up for a second until they get on the bus, then the game is going to start and you’re going to have to fall back on your habits.”

Calhoun, Abram earn SEC awards

A pair of Bulldogs picked up Southeastern Conference awards following MSU’s dominating 52-6 win over Arkansas this past Saturday.

Deion Calhoun was selected as the SEC’s Offensive Lineman of the Week. Defensive back Johnathan Abram was chosen as SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Week along with Kentucky’s Josh Paschal.
It was the second SEC weekly award of Calhoun’s career. It was Abram’s first.

Both guys had huge days against the Razorbacks. Calhoun was MSU’s highest graded lineman. He registered a pair of knockdowns and didn’t allow a sack as he anchored an offensive line that allowed the Bulldogs to rush for 287 yards.

Abram shined as well. He had a career-high 12 tackles with seven solo stops, 1.5 sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss, a forced fumble, two quarterback hurries and a fumble recovery.

Internal honors

The Mississippi State coaches also handed out internal awards as they do after each MSU win.

Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald was the staff’s pick for offensive player of the week with honorable mentions going to running back Aeris Williams and tight end Justin Johnson. Abram also won the staff’s defensive player of the week honor.

Special teams player of the week was defensive back Chris Rayford.

On the scout team, the offensive player of the week was wide receiver Cason Grant, defensive player of the week was defensive back Aadreekis Conner and special teams player of the week was defensive back Somon Anderson.

Student athletes of the week were tight ends Geor’quarius Spivey and Powers Warren.

Simmons is Conerly finalist

Mississippi State defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons was picked as a finalist for the C Spire Conerly Trophy on Monday. The award is given annually to the most outstanding college football player in Mississippi.

Simmons leads all Southeastern Conference defensive linemen this season with 55 tackles. He’s tied for fifth in the SEC with 12.5 tackles for loss.

Simmons is looking to join an impressive group of former MSU winners including J.J. Johnson, Jerious Norwood, Anthony Dixon, Chris White, Gabe Jackson and Dak Prescott.

A combination of votes from fan voting and a poll of sports news media representatives determine the winner of the C Spire Conerly Trophy. The winner will be announced on Tuesday, Nov. 27, at the Country Club of Jackson.

Simmons is one of 10 nominees for the award. Other nominees include Ole Miss wide receiver A.J. Brown, a former Starkville High School standout, as well as Mississippi College running back Tiberias Lampkin, who played his high school football at West Oktibbeha before the school consolidated with Starkville.

Injury report

Mississippi State’s injury report for the Ole Miss game remains essentially unchanged after the Arkansas contest.

“We got out of that game relatively healthy,” Moorhead said.

The Bulldogs are feeling optimistic about a pair of their injured players who have recently missed time. Running back Kylin Hill didn’t play last week and has now missed two of the last four games with a lower body injury. Meanwhile defensive back Jaquarius Landrews has also been dealing with a lower body injury. Landrews has missed the last two games.

Moorhead said Monday both Hill and Landrews ave improved.

“As the days progress, we’re more and more optimistic of their returns this week,” Moorhead said.