Lesson learned: Bulldogs believe they are better prepared for road

MSU quarterback Nick Fitzgerald (7) takes a hit from Georgia's defense..
Staff Writer

It’s said that those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.

It was just about a month ago when Mississippi State, fresh off of a dominating win over LSU that moved the Bulldogs to 3-0, followed that up with a frustrating loss at Georgia.

Players pointed to a bad week of practice. The Bulldogs said something was missing in their workouts.

Now here MSU is again. State has won two games in a row, most recently pounding Kentucky 45-7 last weekend. The Bulldogs are feeling good about themselves once more, but this time, State has no plans to take it easy and rest on the previous Saturday’s success.

“I think you can learn from everything,” MSU quarterback Nick Fitzgerald said. “We didn’t have the best week of practice (after the LSU win). We were a little bit slow on that Monday, just kind of trying to pick it back up and we didn’t start the week too well. We probably got a little ahead of ourselves, the way we were as a team after that win. That kind of bit us in the butt, so we’ve regrouped. We’ve gotten together and talked about it all. We’re just focused on one game at at time.”

No one could blame the Bulldogs for being a bit high on themselves earlier this season after beating LSU. State’s 30-point win over the Tigers was the biggest margin of victory ever for MSU over LSU. It pushed Mississippi State to No. 17 in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll at the time. Suddenly, there were realistic hopes of challenging Alabama to be the cream of the crop in the Southeastern Conference.

It all came crashing down in Georgia. The Bulldogs of the Peach State scored on a 59-yard flea-flicker on their first offensive play and controlled the game from beginning to end.

“I saw (a lack of execution) throughout the week in practice, having to redo a lot of plays and a lot of stuff and missing blocks,” Fitzgerald said after the Georgia loss. “It rolled over into the game.”

While a bad week of practice cost MSU then, the Bulldogs are hopeful they can reap the dividends from the lesson it learned back then in the here and now.

Mississippi State soundly thumped Kentucky on Saturday, just as MSU popped LSU last month. The difference is, the Bulldogs now have a better idea of how to deal with success.

MSU head coach Dan Mullen says that’s why, physically, nothing will change with State’s practices this week. Mentally though, Mullen says things are going to be different this go-around.

“We’re not going to change our routine,” Mullen said. “We just have to change our mentality and our mindset about how we attack the week in practice with a little bit of an edge to us and really work on improving. We talked (Monday) morning with the team that we’ve got to be better in every aspect of the game. Sometimes those are big steps. Big steps are easy to see to improve on. A lot of times, smaller steps aren’t as easy to improve on and take a great attention to detail. We’ve got to make sure we’re paying attention to both of those things.”

All of that goes for everybody. From the key starters like Fitzgerald, to the backups, to the Bulldogs that won’t even see playing time at Texas A&M, Mullen is placing high expectations on every one of his players this week.

MSU might have been burned once by an off week of practice. The Bulldogs are doing all they can to make sure past mistakes stay in the past.

“Our scout team has to be better this week,” Mullen said. “We’ve got to be better at the front on the (offensive and defensive lines). We’ve got to be better at the skill positions. Our intensity in individual (drills) has got to be cleaner and fix things. Within the kicking game, we’ve got to fix things. It’s just the little attention to detail, where being 2 feet off didn’t cost us last week, but if you look at video, it’s showing this is why it could have cost us. That mindset and attention to detail is critical.”