One word can be used to describe Chris Jones’ experience at the 2013 Liberty Bowl – fun.
The highly-touted tackle/defensive end and his Mississippi State Bulldog teammates not only enjoyed the 44-7 win over the Rice Owls, but also the events leading up to the actual game itself.
“Yes, sir, this is what it is all about,” he said as the huge bell-shaped trophy was handed to the MSU coaching staff. “It is exciting to get a huge win against Rice. And to have fun while you are doing it is great.”
Days before the game he had hoped everything would turn out as it did. The All-SEC Freshman was excited to get the experience to play in the game and expected it to be a day to remember. But, he also wanted to win the game.
The Bulldogs (7-6) did just that by defeating the Conference USA Champions for the win. The Owls (10-4), known for their rushing attack, were held to 61 rushing yards on 32 carries, after averaging 240 yards a game on the ground going into the game. The Mississippi State defense, including Jones, had a lot of fun minimizing that final total.
“We tried to change up the line of scrimmage on every play,” said MSU Defensive Coordinator Geoff Collins. “We said we were going to put the game into our D-line’s hands and they rose up big for us today. We just let our D-line play.”
A big part of that MSU defense, figuratively and literally, was Jones.
“He is a big-time player and he has a great future ahead of him,” Collins said. “He is a great kid and a great player and really fast. I cannot say enough good things about him. I will have to watch the tape, but I saw he played really big and really physical.”
Jones was also complimentary of his coaching staff and the job they did preparing for the fourth bowl games for the Bulldogs in four years, a school record.
“Coach Collins put us in a position to make the plays,” he said. “We did what we had to do. The most fun is just enjoying this experience. This is my first bowl game and I plan to be at many more in the future.”
When the Mississippi State players had some free time before the game, they made the most of their opportunities. “We got to see some new places and stay at the Peabody Hotel,” Jones said. “I just tried to keep my mind on football and not let the distractions interfere with what I do. We were just enjoying ourselves, going to the banquets, eating great food, and going to see Beale Street. We enjoyed the sights of Memphis. Some of the guys are from small towns and they don’t get to do things like this.”
After a 4-6 start to the season, the Bulldogs had to reel off two straight wins to become bowl eligible. The strong finish to the season helped reinforce the decision Jones has made in his college choice and the friends and family he sees during his time in Houston and on campus.
“I have surrounded myself with great people and they have inspired me to do the right things,” he said. “Whatever you want, go after it and never quit. I am proud I came to State. I really feel like I made the right decision for me and my family.”