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22 Mississippi State The Bulldogs will go as far as the arm and legs of a seasoned Wayne Madkin take them

Wayne Madkin grew up in Huntsville, Ala., a town where folks are
so unaccustomed to snow that all activity comes to a halt if
radar indicates a flurry within 50 miles. After Madkin fumbled
away the snap in snowy conditions on the first play of the
Independence Bowl last December, he told coach Jackie Sherrill
that his hands were frozen. "Wayne, you've got two choices,"
Sherrill told him. "Thaw 'em out, or I'm going to put [backup]
Kevin [Fant] in." Madkin slipped his hands into a heating pad on
the sideline and played the game of his life in the Bulldogs'
43-41 overtime win over Texas A&M.

As a redshirt freshman in '98, Madkin was thrust into the lineup
after the offense sputtered three games into the season. He has
become the school's career passing leader and has won 23 of 33
starts. He has a strong arm and is a proficient scrambler.
"There's a sixth sense to being a quarterback," Sherrill says.
"Dan Marino, Steve Young, Joe Montana, they had it. It's
something you can't teach."

Despite controlling its destiny in the SEC West with two games
left in each of the past three years, Mississippi State has won
the division just once. That was in 1998, but in a 24-14 loss to
Tennessee in the SEC title game, Madkin completed only 10 of 22
passes and threw two interceptions. Since then, he has become
more accurate. A 48.2% passer as a freshman, he hit on 56.1% of
his attempts last year.

Defensively, All-America safety Edward (Pig) Prather and rugged
linebacker Mario Haggan must anchor things until the front four
matures. Should the Bulldogs get back to the title game, they'll
have a weapon they lacked against the Vols. "[In terms of
maturity] Wayne wasn't ready to play in that game," says
Sherrill. "He was a great athlete playing quarterback. He's made
himself into a great quarterback."


COLOR PHOTO: ERIK CAMPOS/THE STATE Madkin is already the school's career passing leader, and he has won 23 of 33 starts to boot.


2000 record: 8-4 (4-4, T3 in SEC West)
Final ranking: No. 24 AP, No. 22 coaches' poll


Rushing yards allowed last Sept. 30 against Florida, shattering
the team record of -21 yards set in 1939.

An opposing team's coach sizes up the Bulldogs

"Wayne Madkin has matured, but he will make a mistake and isn't
a guy who can get them out of third-and-six.... Dicenzo Miller
and Dontae Walker are good backs and they run behind a huge
line. But they're so big up front you can run around them and
make plays.... I like [offensive coordinator] Sparky Woods, but
they could be more imaginative.... They try to win with defense
and the kicking game, which they can do most times, but if you
control their running game, you can beat them."

Strength: 40th of 117

15 BYU
29 at Florida
Oct. 6 at Auburn
20 LSU
10 at Alabama
17 at Arkansas