July 17, 2013
By Phillip Marshall
HOOVER, Ala. – As the last Saturday in October arrived last season, Mississippi State’s football was on a roll. The Bulldogs were 7-0, including a turnover-fueled 28-10 victory over Auburn. Dan Mullen, nearing the end of his fourth season, proclaimed his program was ready for prime time.
The Bulldogs lost 38-7 at Alabama on Oct. 27. It was their first game against a ranked team. Things didn’t get much better after that. There was a 38-13 home loss to Texas A&M and a 37-17 loss at LSU. A 41-14 victory over Arkansas offered a temporary reprieve, but a 41-24 loss at Ole Miss and 34-20 loss to Northwestern in the Gator Bowl ended it.
Mullen said Wednesday at Southeastern Conference Media Days that players were stung by the late-season collapse and have spent the offseason working to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“I think it changes the sense of urgency,” Mullen said. “Guys that have been around our program are used to winning. We were 7-0 at one point and playing in some pretty important football games late in the season. That was the first time for guys in our program. I think the first loss possibly affected some other games afterward. I think that was a great learning point for our guys, learning how to handle adversity.”
Fifth-year senior quarterback Tyler Russell will carry a large load for a team that suffered significant graduation losses. He’ll have significant help from tailback LaDarius Perkins, once an Auburn commitment.
“He understands our offense, understands what we are trying to accomplish, can help as a leader on the field,” Mullen said. “He understands the stages you get put on in this league and the expectations that are around you as a starting quarterback and the pressures you deal with.”
The Bulldogs have a testy opener on Aug. 31 against Oklahoma State at Reliant Stadium in Houston. Two weeks later, they visit Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: