By JOEL COLEMAN
It has become an annual tradition for Mississippi State fans. The Bulldogs put together a successful season, a bowl destination is announced and MSU supporters show up and cover a new town in maroon.
“Just about every bowl game that we’ve gone to, I’ve felt that we’ve had home-field advantage over the last six years,” Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen said Tuesday at a press conference in Charlotte, North Carolina previewing MSU’s next postseason challenge against NC State in the Belk Bowl on Dec. 30.
Mullen knows the logistics of this year’s bowl trip might make it difficult to enjoy the same level of crowd support the Bulldogs have received in the past.
With NC State located in Raleigh, North Carolina, only about 150 miles east of Charlotte, fans of the Wolfpack will have a much easier trek to Bank of America Stadium than the Bulldog faithful.
Charlotte is around 530 miles from Starkville, making for an eight-hour drive or so from MSU’s campus and even further for Mississippi State fans in southern portions of the Magnolia State, including the many MSU supporters in Jackson.
Knowing that, Mullen had a request for the fanbase.
“We’re going to challenge our fans to show up and try to match or give us close to the balance in the home-field advantage that NC State is going to have,” Mullen said.
Wolfpack head coach Dave Doeren is expecting a big turnout from his fanbase. Last year, many NC State supporters weren’t able to make the 600-mile trek to Florida for the St. Petersburg Bowl. Even some players’ families couldn’t make the trip.
Playing in North Carolina for the Belk Bowl changes all that Doeren says.
“With us playing in Charlotte, the family members will have a much easier time making the trip this year,” Doeren said.
Charlotte has also been fertile recruiting ground in recent years for Doeren. NC State’s leader says another trip to the Queen City can’t hurt on that front either.
“When I was hired (at NC State), (Charlotte) was the first place I came,” Doeren said. “There is a great talent pool in Charlotte. We have 15 players from the Charlotte area and many of them are among our regulars.”
Though the Wolfpack will enjoy all the benefits of playing closer to home, the Bulldogs aren’t going to be left completely out in the cold. MSU fans that travel to Charlotte will be welcome to bring their cowbells inside Bank of America Stadium and try and recreate the atmosphere of a game day in Starkville.
“We’re thankful they are allowing cowbells into the stadium,” Mullen said. “If you’ve got a fever, there’s only one prescription and that’s more cowbell. Unfortunately for the people of Charlotte after the game, they will probably have an actual fever from the cowbells (with) that ringing sound in their head. But it’s such a great tradition for us and traditions are what make college football so special.”
Mississippi State begins practices for the Belk Bowl on Friday.