Football Central: Tennessee vs. Mississippi State

Credit: UT Athletics

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee will look to notch its first SEC win of the year this Saturday as Mississippi State visits Neyland Stadium for a noon kickoff.

Saturday’s contest will be the first between the Vols and Bulldogs in Knoxville since a 34-3 Tennessee win back in 2008.

Broadcast Info
The game will be televised on the SEC Network with Taylor Zarzour (PxP), Matt Stinchcomb (analyst) and Alyssa Lang (sideline) on the call.

Fans can also listen to Tennessee’s radio broadcast on the Vol Network (WIVK-FM 107.7) as well as satellite radio (Sirius Ch. 134, XM Ch. 191, Internet Ch. 962). Bob Kesling (PxP), Tim Priest (analyst) and Brent Hubbs (analyst) will call the action all season long.

Need to Know
Rare Meeting vs. Mississippi State
Saturday’s meeting between Tennessee and Mississippi State is the first game between the two schools since 2012 and the first meeting inside Neyland Stadium since 2008. UT has faced every other SEC school at least once since the 2012 meeting against the Bulldogs. The Big Orange have won the last four meetings in Knoxville (1991, 1995, 2003, 2008) with MSU’s last win in Knoxville coming back in 1986. Following this season’s matchup, Tennessee and Mississippi State are not scheduled to play again until 2024 in Starkville.

Maurer Power
True freshman quarterback Brian Maurer earned his first career start against Georgia, marking the first start by a Tennessee true freshman quarterback since Will McBride started against Missouri on Nov. 11, 2017. Maurer finished the game with 259 yards passing, the most by a UT true freshman quarterback in his first start since Tyler Bray had 325 at Memphis on Nov. 6, 2010. Maurer’s 205 first half passing yards were the most in a first half since Josh Dobbs had 212 in the first half against Vanderbilt in 2016.

The Ocala, Fla., native’s 73-yard touchdown pass to Marquez Callaway was his first completion inside Neyland Stadium and was Tennessee’s longest pass play since Oct. 31, 2015 against Kentucky, when Dobbs connected with Josh Malone for a 75-yard touchdown. Maurer began the game 10-for-17, connecting with Callaway and Jauan Jennings for the first two touchdown passes of his career.

Jennings & Callaway Both Top 100
Jauan Jennings (114) and Marquez Callaway (105) each went over 100 yards receiving against No. 3 Georgia, marking the first time since Nov. 10, 2012 that UT had two receivers with 100-plus yards in the same game. On that date, Justin Hunter and Mychal Rivera had 141 and 129, respectively. Callaway’s 73-yard touchdown reception from Brian Maurer was the longest reception of his career. His 105 yards were a season-high and marked his second career 100-yard performance.

True Freshman Duo Bookend O-Line
The true freshman tandem of Wanya Morris (LT) and Darnell Wright (RG/RT) has started on the offensive line for Tennessee in each of the past three games, marking the first time since 2014 that two true freshmen have started the three or more games for the Vols on the offensive line. Wright started UT’s games against Chattanooga and Florida at right guard before starting at right tackle against Georgia. Morris has started four games this season, all at left tackle.

Pruitt vs. SEC West
During his first season as Tennessee’s head coach, Jeremy Pruitt led the Vols to their first win over an SEC west opponent since 2010 with a 30-24 road victory over No. 21 Auburn. A win over Mississippi State would give the Vols a win over SEC west opponents in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2007 and 2008.

Series History: Mississippi State
Vols lead series, 28-16-1

The Vols and Bulldogs will meet for the 46th time on Saturday. UT is 13-7 all-time against MSU at home and has won the last four games in the series played at Neyland Stadium, including a decisive 34-3 victory the last time the two programs met in Knoxville back in 2008.

Mississippi State won the last meeting in the series, earning a 41-31 victory in Starkville on Oct. 13, 2012.

About Mississippi State
The Bulldogs are coming off a bye week after getting blown out on the road at Auburn two weeks ago. They enter Saturday’s game with a 3-2 overall record and 1-1 mark in SEC play. State is led by second-year head coach Joe Moorhead, who led the team to eight wins last season, and is 11-7 since taking over the program.

MSU does the majority of their damage on the ground, due in large part to junior running back Kylin Hill, who leads the SEC with 596 rushing yards. Hill is averaging 119.2 yards per game and has found the endzone five times this season. The Bulldogs rank fourth in the conference with 206.2 rushing yards per game.

Two quarterbacks have seen significant playing time for the Bulldogs this season in true freshman Garrett Shrader and senior Penn State transfer Tommy Stevens. Shrader presents more of a dual threat look with 312 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns to go along with his 511 yards passing, while Stevens has done the majority of his damage through the air with 448 yards passing and five touchdown passes. Osirus Mitchell has been the go-to guy for the Bulldogs in the passing game and leads the team with 19 catches for 277 yards and four touchdowns.

The Bulldogs’ defense has struggled so far this season, ranking 12th in the SEC in scoring defense (28.6 ppg) and 13th in total defense (401.4 ypg). Junior safety C.J. Morgan leads the team with 36 tackles on top of intercepting a pass and recording four passes defended. Senior defensive back Brian Cole II leads MSU with 5.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.

Game Promos
1989 SEC Championship Team: Tennessee’s 1989 SEC Championship team will be honored during Saturday’s contest. The 1989 team, coached by Johnny Majors, went 11-1 to win the program’s 10th SEC title. The ’89 Vols went on to defeat 10th-ranked Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl and finished the season ranked No. 5 in the nation.

 

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