Tennessee State gears up for Bulldogs in final regular season game


Lately, Tennessee state football coach Eddie George gave his players a popular quote.

“I don’t know if you watch Game of Thrones, but winter is coming,” said George. “Winter is coming and it’s time to get busy.”

The Tigers (5-5, 3-3 Ohio Valley Conference) are just one game away from an offseason in which a lot needs to be done. George – in his first year as a football coach after legendary academic and professional careers – said on Tuesday he wanted to focus on recruiting, training his coaching staff and improving the team’s facilities .

But the 2021 campaign isn’t over yet, and the state of Tennessee has its biggest challenge of the season looming on Saturday.

The Tigers, a Nashville-based FCS team, travel to Mississippi State (6-4, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) at 11 a.m. Saturday at Davis Wade Stadium.

“We’re really excited about this opportunity to play in Mississippi – Starkville, great atmosphere, great environment,” said George. “The kids can’t wait to play against an FBS and definitely SEC school.”

Tennessee State has just suffered back-to-back losses to UT Martin and Austin Peay after four straight wins. The Tigers lost 36-7 to the Governors in their most recent game at Nissan Stadium in Nashville.

“For the most part, our kids are fighting every week,” said George. “They give me the best of themselves.”

And now they face an FBS team for the first time this season, on the road against a team from Mississippi State who just made the biggest comeback in school history on Saturday at Auburn.

The former Ohio State running back said he recently lost a lot of sleep watching the power of Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense. MSU erased a 28-3 deficit against Auburn en route to a 43-34 win, and George knows the Bulldogs can rack up the points if the Tigers aren’t careful

“The offensive explosion is here for sure,” said George. “I think we’re trying to put together a workable plan for where we need to be patient and build drives and not give up on explosive games. It’s a great test for our defensive staff and certainly for our defense.

George said Tennessee State needs to force turnovers, tip passes and pressure from quarterback Will Rogers. But it won’t be easy: Rogers makes 75.7% of his passes, which is the leader of the country, and gets the ball out quickly to aid the Bulldogs’ offense.

Mississippi state is last in the country in ground attempts per game, but with a passing attack ranking third in the country, there isn’t much to depend on the run.

“They don’t run a lot with football, but when you’re that good as a quarterback – getting the ball out quickly and completing – it puts a lot of stress on the defense,” said George. “For us, it will be the way we tackle in space, the way we tackle the receivers and when they come into the red zone trying to get them to score on the field rather than score touchdowns. . “

The state of Tennessee is unlikely to win a shootout in Starkville. The Tigers have scored over 30 points just once this season and are averaging 20.7 points per game.

Additionally, Grambling State quarterback Geremy Hickbottom has a back injury and is questionable for Saturday’s game. George said the Tigers are preparing several more quarterbacks to start if the senior can’t go.

Overall, George said he was pleased with the state of Tennessee’s offensive progress in a limited time frame. He was hired on April 13, two days after the Tigers ended a 2-5 spring season with a loss to Southeast Missouri.

“Considering the time we had, the way we had to set up our attack, I’m pretty happy with where we’re at,” said George. “I wish we had a quicker start – to be more efficient in the racing game, on the third downs, so that we can keep the chains moving and keep our defense off the field. “

If Saturday’s game turns into a defensive battle, it could offer an unlikely route to victory for the visitors. Even if not, George is hopeful his players can approach the offseason and this impending winter on a positive note.

“It was just a pleasure to watch them grow from week to week, and now we’re going to try to finish strong at Mississippi State,” he said.

Theo DeRosa reports on Mississippi state sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.


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