STARKVILLE — Marcus Washington has pleasant memories of Mississippi State”s game at the University of Kentucky two years ago.
The defensive back had an interception to help the Bulldogs defeat the Wildcats 31-14. The victory helped carry them to a winning season (8-5) and Liberty Bowl berth.
“It”s something I always think about,” Washington said. “I remember that game like it was yesterday. They were a ranked team and had a high-powered offense. We just came in with a mind-set to get the win.”
MSU will need another program boosting victory at 6 p.m. Saturday when it travels to Lexington to take on Kentucky.
The Bulldogs (3-5, 1-3 Southeastern Conference) have lost four of their last five games and see the game against the Wildcats as an opportunity to change their fortunes.
“It”s a new week,” Washington said. “Every game is a big game for us, especially a conference game. With Kentucky, we always battle it out, and it”s always a fight to the end.”
The last three MSU-Kentucky games have determined which team improves its chances of making the postseason.
In 2006, the Wildcats defeated the Bulldogs 34-31 and went on to the Music City Bowl, where they beat Clemson 28-20 and finished 8-5.
In 2008, Kentucky squeaked out a 14-13 victory against MSU, then went on to beat East Carolina 25-19 at the Liberty Bowl to secure a winning season (7-6).
The Wildcats (4-3, 1-3) have put themselves in position to make another postseason run, and coach Rich Brooks sees Saturday”s game as a key once again.
“We”re playing what I think is a real critical game for both teams,” Brooks said. “Mississippi State wants to be in postseason and they need to win. If we want to continue to make an impact in the SEC, then we need to win and would help us as far as bowl eligibility is concerned.”
MSU senior tailback Anthony Dixon calls the Kentucky game “playoff time” and expects the effort of both teams to reflect that.
“It”s been like this every year I”ve been here,” Dixon said. “Knowing Kentucky, I know they are going to be physical. I know they are going to be up for this one. They are a rowdy group and like to do a little talking out there. We”ve just got to concentrate on our game, focus and get the job done.”
Last season, quarterback Randall Cobb hurt the Bulldogs. He scored on a 5-yard run and completed a 3-yard pass to tight end Maurice Grinter for a touchdown.
Washington said Cobb can make those kind of plays, especially from the Wildcat formation.
“After watching film, he”s a go-to guy for them and does a lot of things,” Washington said. “We”ll have to keep our eye on him.”
Cobb might be listed as a wide receiver on the depth chart, but MSU coach Dan Mullen expects Cobb to line up anywhere.
Cobb leads the Wildcats in receiving (28 catches, 349 yards, four touchdowns) and is their second-leading rusher (35 carries, 280 yards, four touchdowns).
Mullen said Cobb fits well in a spread offense.
“Cobb causes matchup issues,” Mullen said. “He”s a weapon all over the field, so you”d better know where he is at all times.”
n Notes: MSU Athletic Director Greg Byrne announced the 2010 football schedule has been finalized, including a game against in-state opponent Alcorn State at home on Oct. 2. “We”re really happy to do that, and we hope to continue those rivalry games,” Mullen said. “Anyone who was at the Jackson State game this season knows how special that was.” Alcorn State will receive a guaranteed payout of $315,000 for the game. The Bulldogs will open the 2010 season Sept. 4 at home against the University of Memphis. … Mullen credits Brooks for getting the Kentucky program to three consecutive bowl games and said he”s striving to start a streak like that at MSU. “We want to get this program where it”s going to bowl games every year and beyond,” Mullen said. … Mullen is pleased with the progress of freshman quarterback Daniel Stegall, but he”s still behind senior Tyson Lee, of Columbus, and sophomore Chris Relf on the depth chart. “Daniel has done a good job, but he didn”t get to go through spring (practice) and not even two-a-day training camp,” Mullen said. “He”s picked up things real fast, but he”s still picking up the offense.” … MSU freshman wide receiver Chad Bumphis has had the flu this week, but Mullen said “he”ll be fine for Saturday.”