STARKVILLE -- As the sun beat down on a half-empty Davis Wade Stadium, Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen was faced with an improbable situation. After watching MSU build a 17-0 halftime lead, Mullen was left to give his team's fate to kicker Westin Graves with nine seconds remaining. A four-touchdown favorite entering Saturday's season opener against South Alabama, Mullen had to hope Graves was going to revert to the form that saw him make two field goals earlier in the game, including a career-long 48-yarder.
STARKVILLE -- Damian Williams' role as a backup didn't last long. The Mississippi State junior quarterback served as Nick Fitzgerald's backup Saturday at the start of the season-opening game against South Alabama at Davis Wade Stadium, but Williams entered the game after two series and led a touchdown drive on his first series. From there, Williams played all but one series and statistically had a solid day, but he and the Bulldogs came up on the short end of a 21-20 upset.
STARKVILLE -- After a lot of turnover in the offseason, 18 players made their debuts Saturday in the Mississippi State football team's season-opening 21-20 loss to South Alabama at Davis Wade Stadium. Redshirt freshman linebacker Leo Lewis was one of those players who saw his first playing time. He led MSU with nine tackles (two for loss).
OXFORD -- Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze made a surprise choice to protect his team's most valuable asset. Junior Rod Taylor will be the starter at left tackle when No. 11 Ole Miss plays No. 4 Florida State on Monday in Orlando, Florida. That means the 6-foot-3, 329-pounder -- who has never made a start at either tackle spot -- will be charged with protecting quarterback Chad Kelly's blindside against the Seminoles' talented defense.
ELLISVILLE -- Dakota Allen, Tim Bonner, and Chauncey Rivers made plays against Division I opposition last season. The setting was much different Thursday night when they played in the season opener for their new team, top-ranked East Mississippi Community College. Still, leadership was needed and plays were to be made. In the end, short-handed EMCC didn't make enough of them in a 27-25 loss to Jones County Junior College before a crowd of 5,500 at Bobcat Stadium.
STARKVILLE -- It has been a long wait for the 2016 college football season since Southeastern Conference Media Days in July. A humid August filled with training camps only made the wait seem that much longer, but that wait and all of the speculation and prognostications will end at 11 a.m. Saturday when the Mississippi State football team plays host to South Alabama at Davis Wade Stadium. The SEC Network will broadcast the game live.
When Dylan Bradley arrived at Southern Mississippi, he had signed on with a football program that went 0-12 the previous season. Three years later, Bradley has been a key cog in getting the Golden Eagles back on the map. Last season, the Noxubee County High School product started 13 games at defensive end and helped the team to the Conference USA championship game and the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
Trae Collins never will forget his first career start. It was a little more than eight months ago that the Southern Mississippi redshirt sophomore defensive back drew a start against Washington in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. "I worked hard for it for a long time," said Collins, a former New Hope High School standout.
ELLISVILLE -- Raphael Leonard was tired. The East Mississippi Community College sophomore wide receiver wasn't alone. With only 32 players available due to suspensions from a fight last season at Mississippi Delta C.C., top-ranked EMCC didn't have very much depth for its season opener Thursday at Jones County Junior College.
South Alabama football running back Xavier Johnson can't help but smile as he looks back on his sophomore season. Johnson set school records with 956 rushing yards and 1,447 all-purpose yards as the Jaguars finished 5-7. He ranked fifth in school history with nine total touchdowns, including seven rushing. He had five 100-plus yards games -- the most in a season by a Jaguar running back against Division I opponents. For his efforts, he was an honorable mention All-Sun Belt Conference selection. Johnson's performance has made him want more as a follow-up.
STARKVILLE -- Torrey Dale has a good feeling about this season. With a new defensive coordinator and new schemes, the Mississippi State football senior feels like his production will increase and he will be an anchor for the defensive line. Playing in the shadow of Ryan Brown, Chris Jones, and current defensive end A.J. Jefferson, Dale often has been overlooked. A projected starter, Dale is expected to get a chance to shine at 11 a.m. Saturday when MSU plays host to South Alabama at Davis Wade Stadium. The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network.
OXFORD -- Of the four main players from Ole Miss' talented 2013 recruiting class, three of them are now millionaires. Then there's safety Tony Conner. He'd likely be in the NFL right now -- along with defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche, receiver Laquon Treadwell, and offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil -- if it hadn't been for a major knee injury against Alabama last season that caused him to miss more than half of his junior year.
SCOOBA - East Mississippi Community College football coach Buddy Stephens watched with anticipation and nervousness a private screening of the Netflix documentary "Last Chance U" in April.
STARKVILLE -- Fred Ross was supposed to be off limits in practice.
STARKVILLE -- Even with an on-going quarterback battle, Dan Mullen was in a good mood Monday. The Mississippi State football coach joked with the media when the subject of who will be his team's starting quarterback cam up. Mullen announced that "Nick Williams" will be the starting quarterback, a play on the names of sophomore Nick Fitzgerald and junior Damian Williams.
After months of offseason speculation involving a NCAA investigation of the program, the Ole Miss football team is ready to get down to the business of playing games on the field. No. 11 Ole Miss will open the regular season at 7 p.m. Monday against No. 4 Florida State (ESPN) in Orlando, Florida. Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze met the media Monday and was bubbling with the usual game-week optimism.
STARKVILLE -- Gerri Green was ready to be Richie Brown's backup at middle linebacker.
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State football senior defensive lineman Nick James was arrested early Sunday morning, Oktibbeha County Chief Deputy Chadd Garnett confirmed.
STARKVILLE -- Greg Knox knows how important his position group will be this season. The Mississippi State football running backs coach is getting his guys prepared for more of a run-oriented offense. With the loss of quarterback Dak Prescott, MSU coach Dan Mullen said the Bulldogs may try to run the ball more.
FULTON -- It seemed like everything had changed when former West Point High School standout Kadarius Forside returned to the Itawamba Community College practice field prior to the start of the 2016 season.
1. Kemper County takes it to Noxubee County in second half HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
2. No. 1 Alabama loses Harris in shutout of Kent State COLLEGE SPORTS
3. Stricklin expected to take Florida AD job COLLEGE SPORTS
4. Non-conference schedule has right mix for MSU women LOCAL COLUMNS
5. Starkville's defense answers call against Callaway COLLEGE SPORTS