STARKVILLE, Miss. - Seniors have long been looked at in collegiate athletics as veteran leaders who define and headline a program's success. On Saturday, when the Mississippi State Bulldogs (7-3, 3-3 SEC) take the field against the Arkansas Razorbacks (4-6, 2-4 SEC), a senior class of 25 Maroon and White clad Bulldogs will take to Scott Field for the final time in their career's, leaving State as the winningest senior class in over a decade.
Kickoff for the 2012 Senior Day celebration is set for 11:21 a.m. CT, with the senior recognition beginning at 11:10 a.m. The SEC West matchup will be broadcast on the SEC Network and on the Mississippi State Radio Network, and via Sirius Radio (Channel 117) and XM Radio (Channel 202).
When the Bulldogs take the field Saturday, one has to look no further than this 25-man senior class as to what MSU's success will hinge on. With the class well represented on both sides of the ball, these seniors will look for their 29th victory, last achieved when the 2001 class won 29 games. With names such as Johnthan Banks and Chad Bumphis, this group of seniors will look to accomplish the seventh eight-win season since 1981 and match the school's best three-year mark in history.
On the offense, junior Tyler Russell has been the field general for the Bulldogs, breaking numerous MSU passing records and leading a stellar offensive attack for the Bulldogs. However, an intricate part to all this success can be traced to Bumphis, the senior receiver who's had a record-breaking season of his own. The Tupelo, Miss., native as pulled in eight touchdown receptions this season, leaving him one off the school's single-season mark, while putting him in the top 20 nationally and tied for first for most among SEC receivers. Earning All-SEC honors, Bumphis has also broken the school's career record for touchdown receptions.
On defense, the senior-ruled secondary has been instrumental in the Bulldogs success against opposing offenses. Over the past years, the MSU defense has been one of the nation's top teams in turnover margin, with the ball-hawking secondary being key to that figure. Seniors Banks, Corey Broomfield and Darius Slay, paired with junior Nickoe Whitley, have played in a total of 151 games, while garnering 117 starts, intercepting 39 career passes, with eight returned for touchdowns. Banks, an All-American, has been the leader during the 2012 campaign, picking-off four passes, forcing and recovering a fumble and breaking up five passes, while tying the school mark for career interceptions.
Lastly, there is one member of the 2012 senior class that will be a part of the Mississippi State legacy for many, many years to come. Nick Bell was a Bulldog that defined everything that the program stood for and what coach Dan Mullen looked for in a player. Two years ago, Bell suddenly passed away after his battle with cancer, a major blow to the community of Starkville. Saturday, MSU will honor Nick with the rest of his senior class and continue to play in his honor, as they have ever since that tragic day two years ago.
The last time the Bulldogs took the field against the Razorbacks, Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson put together a career night as the Hogs went on to win 44-17 at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, Ark. Jumping out to a 24-10 lead at the half, the Hogs used a 10-0 third quarter to pull away for good. The Bulldogs' two scores came from quarterback Dylan Favre, one running and one passing, but was not enough to keep the Bulldogs in the game as State fell to 0-6-1 at the Razorback's home away from home.
State will conclude its regular season after Saturday's matchup with Arkansas in Oxford, Miss., in the Battle for the Golden Egg. The Egg Bowl against Ole Miss will kickoff at 6 p.m., with broadcast on ESPNU and the Mississippi State Radio Network.