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November 8, 2006
Dixon proves he can shoulder load
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Anthony Dixon said he knew all along he had this kind of performance in him.
With Mississippi State's other two tailbacks in a three-man rotation ailing, the true freshman from Jackson, Miss., knew the load was on his 6-foot-1, 229-pound frame at Alabama.
The former Rivals.com four-star prospect delivered, churning out a career-high 121 yards on 25 carries as the Bulldogs stunned the Crimson Tide 24-16. The effort earned Dixon Rivals.com's honor as the National Freshman of the Week.
"Like I've been telling coach (Sylvester Croom), as big as I am I'm a horse. Put the saddle on me, coach, and we're gonna ride," Dixon told Rivals.com. "He gave me the opportunity to step up. He told me it would be on my shoulders."
Dixon said he and Croom had a one-on-one meeting on Tuesday in which the coach told his young charge he would be getting the ball as long as he held up.
Dixon's response: Bring it.
"I told him I was down for it," Dixon said. "In high school I was a workhorse. I carried about 35 times a game. There was one game I carried almost 60 times. I think because of penalties it wound up 54 carries."
Dixon said the more work the better. His previous high this season was 19 carries (for 81 yards) in a victory over UAB.
"That's what I was telling them is the deal with me," Dixon said. "I feel like I get stronger and I see stuff better the more I carry it.
"I just ran with it. I knew I could do it."
It was the first SEC victory for Mississippi State this season and the first conference win on the road for the third-year coach.
The victory couldn't have come at a better place for Croom, who graduated from Alabama in 1975 after achieving All-American status as a center.
"It meant a lot to him, and I knew that going in," Dixon said. "He was real emotional, before the game. He was wanting us to prove that we can play with the teams in this league.
"We've got a lot of talent and heart on our side of the ball. The last two or three games we were getting close, and it was hard not to come out of those with a win."
Now that the Bulldogs have that little taste of success, the hunger is growing for more. Dixon believes Mississippi State's remaining opponents - Arkansas and Ole Miss - will have their hands full.
The 11th-ranked Razorbacks are up first, on Nov. 18.
"I'm gonna be ready for it," Dixon said. "I know they have some good rushers on the other side of the ball. But I challenge myself to have more than the other running backs. I know those two dudes are good. I just have to play my game."
There is no reason to believe Croom won't keep the saddle out for Dixon.
Other freshmen considered for the Rivals.com honor were:
• Wisconsin running back P.J. Hill, who responded to his coach calling him out for being soft by carrying 31 times for 148 yards against Penn State. The Badgers won 13-3.
• Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman, who helped the Wildcats to their first conference road win in two years by completing 22 of 26 passes for 251 yards and two touchdowns. K-State beat Colorado 34-21.
• Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, who was stellar yet again, completing 23 of 29 for 346 yards and three touchdowns in a 36-10 rout of Oklahoma State.
Illinois' Vince Okruch can add another note to his list of accomplishments this weekend.
He is the first Rivals.com National Coordinator of the Week to come from a team that lost.
Nonetheless, Okruch (pronounced Oh-crew) is deserving because his defense shut down top-ranked Ohio State like no team has all season. In fact, no other team has come close to shutting down the Buckeyes the way the Illini did.
Yes, the Buckeyes won 17-10. But the young Illini defense gave them fits. Illinois pitched a shutout in the second half, and it held OSU to 224 total yards. It was the lowest total for Jim Tressel's team in 26 games.
The 17 points were a season low. The 108 passing yards were a season low.
Tressel sounded frustrated in the aftermath.
"I don't know what (being the) overwhelming favorite does for us," he said. "It doesn't spot us any points, or get us any first downs. So what does it say that we got taken against the wall? Everybody can get taken against the wall."