Dog gone upset:

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 8, 2002

TSU had its way with Bulldogs one year ago, but what about the return trip to Starkville this season?


Sports Editor

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One Saturday morning Larry Blakeney stepped out of the rain and onto a charter bus.

"Good day for upset, Coach," the driver said.

"Well come on brother let’s go," responded Blakeney.

Blakeney and the Trojans had faced the Big East. They’d faced the Big 12. Now it was time to face a representative of the conference acknowledged as the toughest in the country; the big, bad SEC.

History was on Mississippi State’s side that Saturday morning when Troy State sloshed its way onto Scott Field in Starkville. This was the Bulldogs’ Homecoming and despite having dropped their last three games, Jackie Sherrill’s State team was a 24-point favorite.

The forecast was grim. Rain and wind all day, at times heavy. That caused more then a few cowbells to be absent.

But the weather seemed to favor the Bulldogs. Primarily a running team, Mississippi State had Dicenzo Miller and Dontae Walker, two backfield battering rams.

On the other side, the Trojans were still learning new offensive coordinator John Shannon’s Trojan Spread, which begged the question: how in the world would four wide outs and a quarterback fare with slick football and a swamp of a football field?

The Trojans struck first. Demontray Carter took a short pass from Brock Nutter and splashed his way 37 yards for a touchdown.

Sirens went off following Drew Boetler’s extra point attempt. There was a tornado somewhere. The two teams hustled, side-by-side, into the locker rooms. Fans from both teams crowded beneath the stands, awaiting the all-clear sign.

An hour-and-10-minutes later it came.

"I don’t know if the delay helped us much," said Blakeney after the game. "If anything, it may have helped them. It may have given them a chance to regroup right after we scored the touchdown."

Defensive end Osi Umenyiora said the Bulldogs thought the same thing.

"They were just talking," said Umenyiora about the jog back to the locker room. Running parallel to one another, Umenyiora said State heckled the Trojans.

"They were so angry. They were like, ‘we’re coming back.’ We were like, ‘cool.’"

When play resumed, Wayne Madkin and the Bulldogs started to do just that. Dontae Walker, scheduled to sit out the first half of the game due to disciplinary reasons, was immediately inserted by Sherrill with 12 minutes left in the second quarter.

After going up on Nebraska to start the year 7-0, the Trojans soon folded beneath the Cornhuskers’ attack, eventually losing 42-14.

The stage appeared to be set for that once again.

Until cornerback Rayshun Reed stepped in front of a Madkin pass and returned it 73 yards the other way.

Touchdown, Troy State.

The Trojan fans in attendance, most sitting behind the Mississippi State bench, went wild.

"We knew it was over by then," Umenyiora said. "These guys were through."

The rest, as they say, is history.

Carter scored again, this time on a running play from 23-yards out and Troy State went up 21-0 with 4:39 left in the second.

"You should have seen the looks on their faces," recalled Umenyiora. "They were like, ‘man, I can’t believe we’re losing to these guys.’"

The Bulldogs finally managed a touchdown, scoring just before halftime. The PAT was no good.

In the third quarter, defensive coordinator Wayne Bolt unleashed his front seven. TSU sacked Madkin five times, holding the Bulldogs to 90 yards of total offense and only eight first downs the rest of the way.

Time for the celebration.

But that game, like the Trojans 7-4 record to start their Division I-A football career, is in the past now. Troy State makes a return trip to Starkville on Oct 12 this season. It’s homecoming again.

A young man, walking around Scott Field prior to last season’s game, was heard to say: "Who are we playing today?"

But it’s assured that everyone in Starkville and the surrounding area knows who Troy State is now.

"I know they’re going to be angry," said Umenyiora. "I know that much. But it doesn’t matter. They can be angry. We’re going to be angry to just because they’re Mississippi State. It should be a very good game."

Heyward Skipper, the Trojans’ top wide receiver and a player who speaks with confidence concerning the upcoming season, expects hostility.

"They’re going to be fired up," Skipper said. "They’re going to be ready for us and throw everything at us. That’s a can’t lose game for them. But it’s a can’t lose game for us too."