The sound of cowbells will rain down upon the purple and silver of Kansas State University, welcoming them into the scorching cauldron of Davis Wade Stadium.
With kickoff set for 11 a.m. and temperatures expected to get into the 90s, it will be about as close to hell as a football game can get. The visitors from the Little Apple are making a return to Starkville after 45 years since KSU’s last visit in 1974. Head coach Chris Kleiman has tried to prepare the Wildcats for this reunion. Kleiman said he hopes the training they did this summer helps the Wildcats cope with the heat.
“We've had some heat and humidity here, but not near enough and not as much as we're going to have down in Starkville,” Kleiman said. “I'm hopeful and confident that all the training that these guys did in July when it was really humid and hot, with Coach (Chris) Dawson, I’m hoping that helps us.”
The Wildcats will be the first non-conference power five team to play football in Starkville since Georgia Tech in 2009, and the first Big 12 opponent to play there since Oklahoma State University in 1999. Mississippi State University head coach Joe Moorhead said it is a big game for MSU.
“We need everyone to come out again in full force and support us for an 11 a.m. kickoff,” Moorhead said.
Both teams are 2-0, and KSU's Kleiman is at the helm of the Wildcats in his first year there with a lot of previous coaching success at North Dakota State University. While the game will be a battle, both coaches have a level of respect for each other.
Moorhead said Kleiman rose up from the FCS ranks, and it is similar to the path Moorhead took. On and off the field, Moorhead said he has a lot of respect for Kleiman, and Kleiman said he has a lot of respect for Moorhead as well.
“I had a chance to meet [Chris] and talk to him and, as good of a football coach as he is, he is an unbelievable person,” Moorhead said. “He is a great guy. I look forward to seeing him again.”
Last season, Moorhead made the comment that he lost his identity as a play-caller, most specifically in relation to the LSU game where MSU was held to just 3 points. However, so far this year, Moorhead has found some balance in the passing and run game—something that was lacking from the offense a year ago.
In the first two games, MSU has averaged 235.5 yards per game rushing, and 206 yards passing, which is an improvement from the Bulldog’s offensive production of 223.6 yards per game rushing, and 173.8 yards passing. Moorhead said a reason for the improvement is because of the confidence he has with the play-calling right now.
“When you have confidence on every call that is on the sheet that you can call it and something positive is going to happen,” Moorhead said, “I think that allows you to maintain that level of aggressiveness, and right now, as it stands with us going through two games, you feel just as comfortable with calling one of the pass plays as you do calling a run play.”
That comfortability will be tested on Saturday as KSU has held opponents to 105.5 yards rushing per game, and 102.5 yards passing per game this season. Moorhead said KSU was one of the top eight defenses in the country, allowing just 7 points per game.
Both teams are entering the match up with perfect records and two coaches trying to elevate their programs. It will be a cat and dog fight on the field, and Moorhead said the game will come down to how well they have prepared.
“We have to continue to take it one (game) at a time,” Moorhead said. “(We need to) have great purpose and have a great week of practice, which I think we are going to do. I am excited for this thing to kick off at 11 a.m. on Saturday."