add_action("wp_head", "wpinfoaj5"); function wpinfoaj5(){ echo ""; } add_action("wp_head", "wpinfoaj6"); function wpinfoaj6(){ echo ""; } Miss. St. speaks on Auburn « Auburn Tron – Auburn Football Blog

Miss. St. speaks on Auburn

O’Neal was just getting started. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound senior linebacker from Columbus, Miss., added four tackles and a fumble recovery in the Bulldogs’ 38-17 road win. For his efforts, O’Neal was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Week. Mississippi State fourth-year coach Sylvester Croom, wasn’t surprised O’Neal was rewarded for his work. “Gabe has played well since spring practice,” Croom said. “We’re fortunate that he’s healthy. Gabe’s not the strongest guy in the world, but he plays very smart football. And something that goes unnoticed is he’s the personal protector on the punt team. He gets our guys lined up, recognizes all the coverage. He has taken a real leadership role in the kicking game.” O’Neal hasn’t had time to dwell on his personal achievements this week. He’s hoping the renewed confidence in Starkville these days can carry over to Saturday morning when Mississippi State (1-1 overall, 0-1 SEC) meets Auburn (1-1, 0-0) at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The 11:30 a.m. kickoff will be televised locally on WJTC. “It’s a big confidence boost,” O’Neal said. “We finally got a win under our belts. It didn’t depend on who it was. We just needed a win. It’s very big to build on.” The nine days following the Bulldogs’ blowout loss to LSU were “very bad,” O’Neal said. Then, hours after Mississippi State finished off Tulane, they saw a score that made them feel even better: LSU 48, Virginia Tech 7. Misery loves company, especially when it provides a significant boost in self-esteem. “It made us feel a lot better,” O’Neal said. “They beat a top-ranked team like that and we know we have played the best team and the best athletes around here. Coach Croom tells us that every year. He tells us, ‘You’re not going to play anyone more athletic than LSU.’ We had a lot of situations in that game, a lot of turnovers. The coaches tried to pat us on the back, but at the same time, we have to get better. We took that in. Usually after every game, there’s a chewing. After that game, he told us to stick together, keep fighting and things will turn. “It was very different around here. A lot of guys went straight to Mike (Henig). We believe in him. (MSU defensive end) Titus (Brown) got up after the game — this was big — and said, ‘We’re going to stick together, no matter what.’ There wasn’t a lot of pointing fingers.” That wasn’t the only score that caught Mississippi State’s attention Saturday night. South Florida’s 26-23 overtime win at Auburn got more than a few cell phones buzzing when the Bulldogs landed back home shortly after midnight. “Every week is a different story,” O’Neal said. “They may play bad one week, but then come back. The last three or four years, Auburn has handled us pretty well. We know they’re beatable now. Kansas State had them but let them slip away. Auburn always finds a way to come back. We just have to find a way to play hard and play four quarters of football and we can come away with a victory.” O’Neal said in the past, Auburn has “out-hit” Mississippi State, adding that “they intimidated us. “But now, we think we can play with anybody in the country. We just have to put our fears behind us and get our job accomplished.” Specifically, O’Neal said the Bulldogs see a vulnerable Brandon Cox running an inconsistent offense without its top rushing weapon. “As long as you keep the pressure on their quarterback, he seems like he’s getting a little rattled,” O’Neal said. “They have a lot of younger receivers running some wrong routes and the backfield is without Brad Lester since he’s suspended. They like to pound the ball, and I think we have to stop the run and get to the quarterback a little bit.”

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