STARKVILLE • Mississippi State has a big game with in-state rival Ole Miss on Thanksgiving night that will likely determine if the Bulldogs go bowling this year.
MSU, however, has some business to take care of prior to the annual Battle for the Golden Egg as they host FCS opponent Abilene Christian for homecoming tonight at 6:30 on SEC Network Alternate.
“We need to be focused on the task at hand,” said MSU coach Joe Moorhead. “Certainly, everyone knows what is looming on the back end of this: a huge game, a huge rivalry game. Our focus will turn to that the second the clock ticks zero against Abilene Christian. Right now, all of the focus and attention of the players and staff are on doing what is necessary to get win No. 5 and beat Abilene Christian. When the clock hits zero, it will be full speed ahead to the last game.”
Moorhead’s message seems to have gotten through to his team, which enters today’s contest at 4-6 and needing both wins at home to qualify for a 10th-consecutive bowl game.
“We’re going to treat everything the same, the same way we have the last few weeks,” said MSU quarterback Tommy Stevens. “Your preparation shouldn’t change based off of an opponent. It should stay the same and everybody should be treated the same. I know that I’m going to do that and our guys will prepare the same as we would to play any other opponent.”
MSU managed to win its game against FCS opponent Stephen F. Austin 63-6 to open last season, which also marked the beginning of the Moorhead era in Starkville. The Bulldogs totaled 618 yards of offense in that contest with quarterback Keytaon Thompson accounting for seven touchdowns, tying an SEC record.
Abilene Christian is 5-6 on the year and beat Stephen F. Austin 37-31 in double overtime last month, but has dropped two straight entering tonight’s matchup, which will close out the Wildcats’ season.
Moorhead certainly knows what it will be like in ACU’s shoes tonight, having played and coached at Fordham. During his four seasons as the Rams’ head coach, Moorhead guided his team to two upsets over FBS opponents on the road – Army and Temple.
“You kind of go into it with a very aggressive mindset and attitude,” Moorhead said. “Anyone who puts on a helmet or plays the game at this level – or any sport for that matter – wants to believe they can play at the highest level. The kids enter the game with a chip on their shoulder. They go in with everything to gain and nothing to lose.”
Tonight marks the first meeting between the Bulldogs and Wildcats.