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Perkins, Morgan prepared for another round in old rivalry

[9/03/2001]A pair of Warren County stars with professional dreams renew a rivalry tonight that dates back to high school.

Josh Morgan of Mississippi State and Bunkie Perkins of Memphis, who hooked up on several occassions on opposite sides of the ball during their prep days, will both start on Monday night football ESPN style.

The nationally televised game on ESPN2 at 6 p.m. will be the first one of the season on Monday night and the first time these two will have played on Monday.

“I hope it’s not the last time I play on Monday night,” said Perkins, who caught four passes for 55 yards in the Tigers’ last scrimmage.

This will also be a battle of Perkins’ trash-talk against Morgan’s no-nonsense, smash-mouth attack. Perkins, wearing No. 1, will start as the Tigers’ slot receiver, while Morgan (No. 47) will be the Bulldogs’ starting free safety.

Morgan said it doesn’t matter what Perkins says to him tonight, there will be no retaliation at least, not verbally.

While Perkins searches for ways into the minds, Morgan, a sophomore safety, concentrates on punishing bodies.

“If he catches a ball in front of me,” Morgan said, “I’ll hit him as hard as I can then I’ll help him up.”

Perkins, a star receiver at Vicksburg High and Hinds Community College, has plenty of experience in wars of words. After all, he used to match up with the unofficial king of smack, Fred Smoot, at Hinds and in last year’s season-opener.

Like his former Hinds teammate, Perkins works hard at getting into an opponent’s head.

“It’s a treat whenever you get on the field with someone you know,” Perkins said.

“It will be nice to play against Josh again.”

If Morgan did decide to talk, there is one thing he could point out that might leave even Perkins speechless the scoreboard.

“Something I haven’t been able to do is beat him,” said Perkins, who lost every game to Warren Central while at Vicksburg. Last season, Memphis lost to MSU in Perkins’ first Division I-A game.

The Tigers bring a new coach and a brand new offense into Starkville. Tommy West, a former coach at Clemson, has instituted a wide-open offense that features three and even four wide receivers.

Perkins, the starting slot receiver, led the run-oriented team last year with 33 catches and 317 yards. He has yet to score a touchdown.

“We have to expect everything,” said Morgan, who was second on the Bulldogs with 95 tackles and had three sacks last season. “They have a fast-break offense and run a lot of no-huddle.”

Morgan, a former walk-on who has turned into one of the Bulldogs’ defensive leaders, said he knows the Tigers will be looking for Perkins.

Perkins should be looking for Morgan.

“I’m not surprised he is doing as good as he is,” Perkins said. “I always knew he had a lot of talent.”

Mississippi State beat Memphis last year, 17-3, and the Bulldogs’ defense held Perkins to one catch for minus-1 yard.

Perkins believes a repeat of last year will not happen.

“I have to go out there and let everyone know where I’m coming from,” Perkins said. “We’re very confident … We’re underdogs and have nothing to lose.

“It’s not like we’re going in there thinking of them as gods or anything.”