Mississippi State fans dont need many reasons to send the decibel level skyrocketing with their beloved cowbells, but the clang youve been hearing lately is the Bulldogs season hitting rock bottom.
Theyve lost three straight games and have dropped out of the BCS top-25, ruining a 7-0 start in which they were barely tested.
Only the ultimate optimist would have believed Mississippi State would defeat Alabama, Texas A&M and LSU in consecutive weeks, but the Bulldogs were blown out by the Crimson Tide, werent competitive against the Aggies and let the score get out of hand late in last weeks loss in Baton Rouge.
Its called the Southeastern Conference, coach Dan Mullen said on a teleconference. Ive seen it before as a head coach. Ive seen it plenty as an assistant coach. And Ive seen it sitting and watching other people play before we go play on a Saturday afternoon. You want to play against the best, and thats what you have here in the Southeastern Conference.
Yes, the SEC is tough.
Alabama was No. 1 when it routed the Bulldogs 38-7 on Oct. 27 and Texas A&M jumped out to a 24-point lead in its 38-13 win. But Mississippi States players pointed to small mistakes that turned a three-point deficit into a 37-17 loss last week.
We might lose lack of focus for one second. Thats what happens in football, cornerback Corey Broomfield said. You lose lack focus for one play and it ends up being a touchdown. Its magnified a thousand times. If youre playing a top-10 team in the nation, you cant let that happen.
Arkansas (4-6, 2-4), Saturdays opponent, should help the Bulldogs reach the eighth victory that has eluded them the past three weeks. Only 15 other teams in school history have won at least eight games, but its happened seven times since 1981.
This years group of seniors experienced a nine-win season in 2010 and will become only the second senior class in school history to play in three straight bowl games.
Part of Mississippi States struggles can be linked to the health of running back LaDarius Perkins. Hes been bothered by a quad injury and missed last weeks loss at LSU.
As a result of his injury and the level of competition, the Bulldogs have rushed for just 192 yards in the past three games, or 64 yards a game.Perkins rushed for 38 yards against Alabama and 42 vs. Texas A&M, but has 804 and eight touchdowns for the year and keeps opposing defenses from focusing on quarterback Tyler Russell.
(Perkins has) had a really good season for us, but you expect that with an older guy coming in, Mullen said. He waited his turn. He was a role player and that rotating back for the last two years and now he gets to come in and be the guy. So, hes had a really good year for us. We expect him to play on Saturday.
Russell already has set the schools single-season mark with 17 touchdown passes and hes 173 yards from school record for passing yards in a season. He has 2,249 after setting his career high with 295 yards and 26 completions against LSU.
But the Bulldogs rushed for 47 yards against LSU and the Tigers Craig Loston returned an interception 100 yards for the final score with 1:13 remaining.
Weve had some bad breaks the past couple of games and made some mistakes, but were correcting those mistakes, Russell said. I think the attitude at practice is high, really good. Were just trying to finish the season out strong.