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Banged-up Mississippi State looks to regroup in home-opener against Alcorn State

STARKVILLE, Mississippi --- Mississippi State will be favored to win its first game of the season when Alcorn State comes to town.

The battered Bulldogs, who are dealing with injuries and a bruised ego in the aftermath of last week's loss to Oklahoma State, need to turn things around against the Braves.

Mississippi State (0-1) will be playing Alcorn State (1-0) for the second time in four seasons. The Bulldogs beat the Braves, who play at the Football Championship Subdivision level, 49-16 in 2010.

Sophomore Dak Prescott is expected to get his first career start at quarterback for Mississippi State while Tyler Russell recovers from a concussion he suffered against Oklahoma State.

The Bulldogs are also reshuffling the defense after losing starting safety Jay Hughes to a season-ending Achilles injury.

Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said games against FCS opponents can sometimes prove difficult, because they view it as "their Super Bowl," but was confident the Bulldogs would take the home opener seriously after a lackluster outing in the 21-3 loss to Oklahoma State.

"I know our guys are going to play with a chip on their shoulder this week because I don't think they're pleased with their overall performance," Mullen said.

Prescott played in 12 out of 13 games last season in a backup role and was usually used in short yardage situations when the Bulldogs needed a first down or were in a goal line formation.

Now the 6-foot-2, 230-pounder must prove he can handle passing situations. He completed 7 of 17 passes for 89 yards and threw an interception against the Cowboys.

Even though Russell has more of a passer's reputation than Prescott, coaches and players said the playbook will remain the same.

The game plan "stays the same regardless," Prescott said. "We're going to practice and use the same whether Tyler's the starter or I'm the starter. That doesn't change anything."

Alcorn State won its season-opening game with ease, beating up on Edward Waters (Fla.) in a 63-12 victory. Arnold Walker rushed for a team-high 75 yards and three touchdowns.

But Mississippi State will provide a much great talent than NAIA-level Edward Waters.

"They always are going to have great athletes," Mullen said. "We played them here a couple of years ago and they battled us in a real tough deal with a lot of great athletes on the field. Made a bunch of big plays."

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Here are five things to watch win Mississippi State hosts Alcorn State on Saturday:

PRESCOTT'S FIRST START: Mississippi State sophomore Dak Prescott will likely get his first start at quarterback against Alcorn State while Tyler Russell recovers from a concussion suffered against Oklahoma State. Prescott proved to be a talented runner in limited action last season, but has yet to show he can stretch the field with the passing game.

MORE AGGRESSIVE OFFENSE: Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said he was "disappointed" that he didn't put the team in a better position to score points against Oklahoma State. The Bulldogs' conservative game plan against the Cowboys didn't lead to much success and Mullen hopes to be more aggressive against the Braves.

REVAMPED DEFENSE: The Mississippi State defense lost starting safety Jay Hughes for the season due to an Achilles injury in the Oklahoma State game. Now the Bulldogs are reshuffling a young secondary and hope that backup Dee Arrington and Kendrick Market can help fill the void. Arrington had a career high seven tackles against the Cowboys.

RUN STOPPERS: Mississippi State's defense was generally solid against Oklahoma State, but struggled to stop the run, especially during the second half. The Cowboys finished with 286 rushing yards, which is a number the Bulldogs would like to see decrease substantially against the Braves.

A BRAVES EFFORT: Alcorn State piled up 464 total yards in a 63-12 victory against Edward Waters (Fla.) last week, but the talent level of Mississippi State's defense will be much greater. Arnold Walker led Alcorn State with 75 rushing yards and three touchdowns in the opener.


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