Back from Starkville

by:Duncan Cavanah10/30/06
MSU quarterback Michael Henig sports the Mississippi/Alabama bowl cut. Enjoyed a great trip to Stark Vegas this weekend to witness a Cats’ SEC road win, something that is visible to human sight only slightly more frequently than Halley’s Comet. Here’s what I saw. First, for the game itself. Kentucky pulled this game out in an Old School, Gene Stallings sort of way. It won the battle of the running game and the special teams. Both quarterbacks were successful throwing the ball, but Kentucky was able to make the Bulldogs completely one dimensional by repeatedly stuffing the run. Contrary to the Cats’ general futility in this area, MSU finished with a mere 24 yards on 24 carries. This was far and away the best performance by Kentucky’s linebackers in terms of shedding blocks and making authoritative tackles. Braxton Kelly appeared to have finally shaken the demons of last year’s knee injury, and was all over the field with 12 tackles. In my mind, he now has a firm grasp on the middle backer spot, which again begs the question of whether Micah Johnson could help Kentucky’s anemic pass rush from the end. Kentucky was hardly dominant in its own rushing attack, but used the blazing speed of Alphonso Smith to gain over 100 yards. Kentucky wanted to run more plays from under center to aid in the running game, and set up play action. They were able to accomplish both on Saturday. The Kentucky special teams were solid in all phases with Keenan Burton ripping off two forty plus yard kickoff returns, and both punt and kickoff coverage was stellar. A clear indication of the additional depth of talent in the program is to watch the coverage units on special teams. There are now a number of non-starters covering kicks who appear to have the size and speed of legitimate SEC athletes. More importantly than the game itself, I am sure that many of you are relying on my review of Starkville as you begin planning for future road trips, vacation, and honeymoons. Unfortunately, our itinerary didn’t allow us to see very much of the town. Unless, of course, what we saw was the entire town. If so, God bless you, people of Starkville. I was impressed to see that Starkville contained a Ruby Tuesday’s, and the tea was delicious, though my fries had too much seasoning. The stadium was like every other stadium in the SEC West. Specifically, a New Deal Era concrete tomb with fewer amenities than my 1992 Nissan pickup with optional bumper. For my Hoptown folks, picture a slightly larger Walnut Street Stadium. When I say the stadium is no frills, I mean it. For example, I was very impressed to see that the men’s restroom had no trough. Instead, there was just a concrete ditch along the wall. High brow. I assume, though with no real confidence, that there was some porcelain in the ladies’ room. The campus was reasonably attractive, though not as scenic as UK, and I was somewhat troubled to see what appeared to be a homeless guy roll up his sweater sleeve to collect change out of a wishing well in the middle of campus. I guess the MSU boosters are going to have to find a safer depository for the Sylvester Croom buy out fund. As for the general feel of the area, let me just say that Mississippi is a pretty conservative place. About two towns over on the highway leading into Starkville, you pass through a place called Guntown, which I believe is the County Seat of Second Amendment County. The people were exceptionally friendly, sometime overly so. For example, when my dad and I parked, a Mississippi State fan gave us ten minutes worth of detailed direction on how to get to the stadium. This was very kind of him, but I felt somewhat unnecessary as the stadium was approximately 200 yards away and completely within our field of vision. I am not sure why this gentleman felt my father and I were incapable of walking to the only structure standing over one story within 100 miles when said structure was directly in front of us, but he was clearly concerned. The only negative interaction we had with opposing fans was when we got back to the car after the game to find that someone had written “Kentucky sucks” on our windshield with that car decorating paint. That may well be the case, anonymous Bulldog fan, but we suck slightly less than you do. Finally, I can’t finish this without exploring the phenomenon of the Mississippi/Alabama haircut as modeled by MSU quarterback Michael Henig above. I don’t know if there is something in the Constitutions of both states, or simply a strictly enforced social mandate, but every male between the ages of 14 to 25 is required to have the same shaggy bowl cut. If you have yet to experience this in person, think back to every white basketball player that has ever played for a school in one of these states, and I bet you can picture that bowl cut flopping as he scrappily dives on the floor for no reason. If someone from one of these states can explain, I implore you to do so.

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