Who's Playing?: Oxford (1-0, #1 CL/MP, #2 AP, #1 in 5A [all polls], #32 Nationally (MP)) vs. Starkville (1-0, #3 CL/AP, #6 MP, #2 in 6A [CL/AP])
What?: Home Opener / New Turf Premiere Game
Where?: Bobby Holcomb Field
When?: Friday, August 29th @ 7:00 PM
How can you keep yourself updated?: 95.5 FM Radio, Bullseye955.com, @OxChargerSports Twitter account
The Lowdown: Aye, that made up trophy game is back. A trophy made up because of the two colleges that reside in both of these towns.
Both teams are really looking for a high-profile win - it just happens to come with a cheap trophy (as many remember, the trophy broke in half almost immediately after Oxford won it last year). Oxford would really like to play keep away from the team that thought would beat Oxford last year and made it the main reason why this trophy was made up.
Starkville blew out Noxubee County at their home last Friday 51-19. A far cry from the 17-0 game last year - mainly because of two new cast members. A high-profile transfer RB from Missouri, and a QB who transferred from New Hope who has committed to Memphis. They haven't had the stiff competition yet. Noxubee County - usually a force in 4A - is still not up to snuff after winning it all two years ago. Terry is - well, not that known - who they played in the Jamboree. The Yellow Jacket D surely remembers last year's collapse (almost literally) not being able to slow down Oxford's offensive attack in the second half in the heat. That was the Kenzie Phillips breakout party last year.
But that was last year. This is this year.
Oxford is coming off a 26-21 win over MAIS AAA's two-time defending champion Jackson Prep where they held off a second half rally to win on the road. The heat really did a number more than anything, hospitalizing a Jackson Prep player who would eventually pass away, and cramping up Kyree White and Jack Abraham during the game. The Heat Index was above 90*F throughout much of the game and was above 100*F at kickoff - and to top it off, it was on a artificial turf field which doesn't absorb heat as well as a grass field does. Oxford's D faced an offense known as the Polecat offense last week (as seen on the picture). They likely won't face something like that the rest of the year. It's an offense where the linemen line up near where a wideout would normally be. Oxford (and many other teams) lines up in a variation of it during the point after touchdown attempt called a Lonesome Polecat, usually no play comes from it before everyone lines up in a traditional Field Goal formation.
The critical play in last year's game was a 4th & 1 situation in the Starkville red zone for Oxford where Glenn Gordan - what appeared to be the fifth choice at WR to get the ball on such a big play - made a huge touchdown catch to give Oxford the needed cushion to win that game 35-24. Abraham got into a rhythm in the second half of that game and went on a tear with 4 total TD passes.
SHS QB Brady Davis has never been an accurate QB, completing less than 51% of his passes last year and was 11/18, 183 yards, 3 TD last week in the blowout win. Davis against Oxford last year was just 9/22, 98 yards, TD, INT. Not exactly D1 QB caliber numbers. Abraham overcame a career-high Interception day and had a monster 2nd half going 23/36, 304 yards, 4 TD, 3 INT last year at Starkville.
Whoever wins this game gets a trophy. What are they trying to do? Make this the Egg Bowl? I don't see coach Dan Mullen over there.
For Oxford to Win, They Must: Protect on the Line - Oxford didn't do a great job last week protecting Abraham as he had to improvise half the game. Kenzie Phillips got more than half of his yards with 5 players on his back. That must change if Oxford wants to win this game.
Stop the Run Game - Make Davis throw the ball. Gene Wood last week was under 40% passing. An inaccurate QB will always be that unless he can prove himself when he has to throw it (and Wood did not do that). Judging on his past games and last year while as the New Hope QB, that has proven to be not the case so far.
Get more YAC Yards - of the 281 Passing Yards last week, only 95 was after the catch was made. While that is a credit to the Jackson Prep defense, plays meant to have yards gained by the playmakers needs to have more yards and some blown WR blocking assignments were also the cause of stopping plays.
For Starkville to Win, They Must: Establish a Ground Game - Davis was effective passing it because they ran it nearly 70% of the time last week and two backs surpassed 100 yards. Whoever has the most effective ground game usually winds up on top. That's exactly why Davis was ineffective while at New Hope, because the Trojans last year didn't have a run game.
Put the Pressure On - Obvious passing downs are where Starkville needs to make Abraham get rid of the ball quickly when he doesn't want to. It worked to some degree last week for the Patriots who got one sack and made him scramble. While successful in putting pressure, Abraham was able to find ways to move the chains and find an open receiver on the run.
Don't Feel Like You Must Get Seven - What cost Jackson Prep the game last week was going for it on 4th Down three times in the Red Zone instead of kicking a Field Goal (which the team was very capable of doing). The notable one was right before halftime with 3 seconds left (which was not on 4th Down but serves as the same thing). As much as coaching kept them in the game, those decisions ended up costing the team points at the end.
Other Notes: Oxford's biggest deficit out of all the games last year was by 14 points to Starkville (happening at 14-0 - Picayune, Jackson Prep, Vicksburg, and Center Hill who all had leads in their games never led by more than 7). For the record, I do know what this game is dubbed as.