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SMITH COLUMN: MSU sluggish out of gate, but recovers

September 23, 2012


The Mississippi State Bulldogs needed to get refocused and ready.

At least that's the way analyst from ESPN radio saw the situation on Saturday morning.

After MSU escaped Troy last week with a 30-24 victory, there were many across the country that were anxious to see whether its newly achieved No. 23 ranking in The Associated Press and USA Today polls was deserved.
The Bulldogs didn't heed the advice of the ESPN radio crew for about a quarter in Saturday night's 30-10 win over the South Alabama Jaguars.

MSU wasn't on top of its game early, especially offensively, against South Alabama.

A completed pass from Tyler Russell to Chris Smith was the only first down for the Bulldogs in the first three possessions, so things did not go well for a little while.

MSU didn't score until the 12:18 mark of the second quarter on a 44-yard run by LaDarius Perkins.

It seemed once the offense got the touchdown run from Perkins, things started to loosen up a bit for the Bulldogs and the offense.

Even though MSU ended up with 214 yards of total offense in the first half, the performance still left much to be desired and didn't keep coach Dan Mullen from calling the effort "embarrassing" as he exited the field at halftime.

"Everything we did, you don't want to do," Mullen said about the first half. "We should win this game, but you want to come out and play sharp and play crisp.

"We have a lot of improving to do on both sides of the ball."
Mullen has every reason to be concerned.

The Bulldogs may now have a 4-0 record, but it's not an overly impressive 4-0.

After beating a Southwestern Athletic Conference in-state opponent Jackson State 56-9, MSU handled a very weak Auburn squad 28-10 at home and managed to do just enough to get victories against Troy and South Alabama.

The Bulldogs can't continue to live on the edge as they have at times in the last two games and expect to have success in future games this season, especially in the Southeastern Conference.

Can MSU play like it did Saturday and beat Kentucky in two weeks? I'm not sure.

Can the Bulldogs play the way they did Saturday and beat Tennessee at home on Oct. 13? They will have a tough time.

Mississippi State certainly has some issues to address during the open date.

"We're going to grind on our guys a little bit," Mullen said. "We need to focus on the little things to get corrected."

It will be interesting to see if the Bulldogs use that time wisely.

Danny P. Smith is sports editor and columnist for the Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily News or its staff.

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