Originally written November 16, 2012 on Fox Sports South:
Mississippi State fans dont need many reasons to send thedecibel level skyrocketing with their beloved cowbells, but the clang youvebeen hearing lately is the Bulldogs season hitting rock bottom.Theyve lost three straight games and have dropped out ofthe BCS top-25, ruining a 7-0 start during which they were barely tested.Only the ultimate optimist would have given MississippiState a chance to defeat Alabama, Texas A&M and LSU in consecutive weeks, butthe Bulldogs were blown out by the Crimson Tide, werent competitive againstthe Aggies and let the score get out of hand late in last weeks loss in BatonRouge.Its called the Southeastern Conference, coach Dan Mullensaid on a teleconference. Ive seen it before as a head coach. Ive seen itplenty as an assistant coach. And Ive seen it sitting and watching otherpeople play before we go play on a Saturday afternoon. You want to playagainst the best, and thats what you have here in the SoutheasternConference.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. ButMississippi States players pointed to small mistakes that turned a three-pointdeficit into a 37-17 loss last week.We might lose lack of focus for one second. Thats whathappens in football, cornerback Corey Broomfield said. You lose focus for oneplay and it ends up being a touchdown. Its magnified a thousand times. If youreplaying a top-10 team in the nation, you cant let that happen.Part of Mississippi States struggles can be linked to thehealth of running back LaDarius Perkins. Hes been bothered by a quad injuryand missed last weeks loss at LSU.As a result of his injury and the level of competition, theBulldogs have rushed for just 192 yards in the past three games, or 64 yards agame. Perkins rushed for just 38 yards against Alabama and 42 vs. TexasA&M, but has 804 yards and eight touchdowns for the year and keeps opposingdefenses from focusing on quarterback Tyler Russell.(Perkins has) had a really good season for us, but youexpect that with an older guy coming in, Mullen said. He waited his turn. Hewas a role player and that rotating back for the last two years and now he getsto come in and be the guy. So, hes had a really good year for us. We expecthim to play on Saturday.Arkansas (4-6, 2-4), Saturdays opponent, should help theBulldogs 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 itshappened seven times since 1981. This years group of seniors experienced a nine-win seasonin 2010 and will become only the second senior class in school history to playin three straight bowl games.Though Russell isnt one of those seniors, the juniorquarterback continues to close in on individual school records. Russell has alreadyset the schools single-season mark with 17 touchdown passes and is just 173yards shy from the school record for passing yards in a season. He has 2,249career yards after setting his career high with 295 yards and 26 completionsagainst LSU.But with the good also comes the bad. Last week, LSUs CraigLoston returned a Russell interception 100 yards for the final score with 1:13remaining.Weve had some bad breaks the past couple of games and madesome mistakes, but were correcting those mistakes, Russell said. I think theattitude at practice is high, really good. Were just trying to finish theseason out strong.
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