Bulldogs Maintain Hope, Keep Learning

Brad LockeContributor IOctober 27, 2009

STARKVILLE, MS - OCTOBER 24:  Head coach Dan Mullen of the Mississippi State Bulldogs, during pre game warm up against the Florida Gators, at Davis Wade Stadium on  October 24, 2009 in Starkville, Mississippi  (Photo by Rick Dole/Getty Images)

Mississippi State has lost four times at home this season, by an average of eight points. Bowl hopes are slipping away, but the Bulldogs’ sense of hope is not.

If nothing else, MSU (3-5, 1-3 SEC) has shown remarkable mental and emotional resilience under first-year coach Dan Mullen, at least outwardly. The Bulldogs head to Kentucky (4-3, 1-3) this weekend with designs on putting Saturday’s 29-19 loss to No. 1 Florida behind them and regaining some momentum for the season’s final stretch.

“You learn from your mistakes and get ready for Kentucky,” said quarterback Tyson Lee, who threw three interceptions against Florida. “I can’t do anything about the Florida game. I learned from it, things you did well, learn from that; things you did bad, try to correct it.”

The goal for such a young team under a new coach is to make measurable progress each week. One of State’s biggest question marks coming into the season was its secondary.

A big lineup shuffle in recent weeks, with free safety Johnthan Banks and cornerbacks Corey Broomfield and Maurice Langston all becoming first-time starters, has paid dividends so far. MSU has made eight interceptions over the last three games after getting only three in the first five games. Banks had two interceptions returned for touchdowns against Florida, including a 100-yarder just before halftime.

“When you’re starting to play with a bunch of young guys and a lot of inexperienced guys, you have the potential to see big improvement, not just small improvement from week to week,” Mullen said. “I think we’ve seen some of those jumps of those guys making plays and playing with some confidence back there. There’s still a lot of growing and developing to do.”

Mullen said Sunday’s practice went well, and he likes the collective attitude of his team.

“They fight, they’ve showed the effort by the way they’ve battled in games, that we’ve lost four pretty tough games at home against nationally ranked opponents,” he said. “They battled in every one of those games, and they came out yesterday, and I was really pleased with their effort in practice yesterday.”