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Vols, 'Dogs seek momentum after lopsided losses

Associated Press • Oct 11, 2019 at 11:05 PM

KNOXVILLE — Mississippi State’s visit to Tennessee could feature a matchup of true freshman quarterbacks.

Tennessee’s Brian Maurer will make his second career start Saturday after delivering mixed results last week in a 43-14 loss to No. 3 Georgia. Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead isn’t saying whether he will start Penn State graduate transfer Tommy Stevens or freshman Garrett Shrader, both of whom have played quite a bit this season.

Maurer threw for 209 yards and two touchdowns in the first half against Georgia before tailing off in the second half. He finished 14-of-28 passing for 259 yards with an interception and a fumble.

“There’s way more positives than there were negatives,” Vols coach Jeremy Pruitt said of Maurer’s performance. “He’s got to learn from them and not make the same mistakes again. But he did step in there and make some nice throws, and I thought our kids rallied around him pretty well.”

Both Tennessee and Mississippi State could use a spark following lopsided losses. Mississippi State (3-2, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) had last week off after losing 56-23 to No. 12 Auburn, which was ranked seventh at the time.

“You can either dwell on it and allow the same game to try and beat you twice, or you can correct it, put it to bed and move on,” Bulldogs coach Joe Moorhead said. “We chose the latter.”

Tennessee, despite the loss to Georgia, is hoping that game represents a turning point. The Vols (1-4, 0-2) played well in the first half and led for most of the second quarter.

“I feel like we came out of our shell more,” Tennessee safety Nigel Warrior said. “I think more of the players, my teammates, we opened up a little bit. We played with more heart. That brought out more personality. If you looked on the sideline, you could see people jumping around. On the field, you could see more personality, screaming, talking to each other, communication.”

Here are some other things to know about Saturday’s Mississippi State-Tennessee game (noon, SEC Network).

STEVENS OR SHRADER?

With Moorhead mum on his starting quarterback, Tennessee has to prepare for both of them.

Shrader is the more mobile of the two signal-callers. He’s run for 312 yards and also has completed 58.8% of his passes for 511 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.

Stevens has completed 63.8% of his throws for 448 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions.

HILL ON THE RUN

Mississippi State has the SEC’s leading rusher in Kylin Hill, who has run for 596 yards and five touchdowns while averaging 5.5 yards per carry. Hill has gained 344 yards after contact, also the most in the SEC.

Handling Hill will be a challenge for a Tennessee defense that has given up 167.4 yards rushing per game. Kentucky and Vanderbilt are the only SEC teams yielding more yards rushing per game.

SHOOP’S RETURN

This game marks Mississippi State defensive coordinator Bob Shoop’s return to Knoxville. Shoop was Tennessee’s defensive coordinator in 2016-17 during the final two years of Butch Jones’ coaching tenure. Jay Shoop, Bob Shoop’s son, is a walk-on defensive back for UT.

UNFAMILIAR FOES

Tennessee and Mississippi State have not met on the football field since 2012 and the Bulldogs haven’t played in Knoxville since 2008.

VOLS’ RECEIVING THREATS

Mississippi State will have to watch out for Tennessee senior receivers Marquez Callaway and Jauan Jennings, who each caught a touchdown pass and accumulated over 100 yards receiving against Georgia. Jennings has five touchdown catches this season.

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