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Caught in tailspin: Promising start to season ends sour for the Bulldogs

January 6, 2013

Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen tries to get the attention of an official during last Tuesday's Gator Bowll. (Photo by Stephen Morton, AP)

Mississippi State's football season started so promising, but when all was said and done it was a tailspin.

The Bulldogs opened the season 7-0 with victories over Southeastern Conference opponents Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee.

MSU then traveled to Tuscaloosa, Ala. on Oct. 27. It fell to the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide 38-7. The Bulldogs only won one more game. That came over struggling Arkansas.

State lost five of its last six games including losses to Bama, Texas A&M, LSU, rival Ole Miss and Northwestern in the Gator Bowl to end the season with an 8-5 overall record and 4-4 mark in conference play.

"Nobody likes to," MSU head coach Dan Mullen said after the Gator Bowl. "Our kids put in, everybody puts in a lot of work to win football games. It was great to win a lot early. It (stinks) to lose late."

The Bulldogs had a great deal of momentum and confidence heading to Alabama, but were unable to match the Tide's athleticism and that led to the downward spiral.

"We didn't finish out the way we wanted to and things just didn't go our way," MSU junior offensive lineman Gabe Jackson said.

There have already been a couple of changes to the coaching staff and there seems to be more on the horizon.

The news came on Christmas Day that cornerbacks coach Melvin Smith was leaving the Bulldog staff to take a similar position at Auburn.

Safeties coach Tony Hughes coached the entire secondary during the bowl game and there has been talk of him coaching the entire secondary next season.

During the Gator Bowl, Mullen let co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Geoff Collins do the play calling. Defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Chris Wilson had been calling the plays all season long.

It was revealed Friday that Mullen was promoting Collins to defensive coordinator. It was also reported late Friday night by ESPN that Wilson was expected to take the defensive line coaching position at Georgia.

"We've got to do a better job as coaches," Mullen said. "We've got to make sure we continue to put kids in position to win."

The coaches' convention is Monday, and Mullen will be on the hunt for a couple of assistant coaches to add to his staff.

On Aug. 19, 2012, wide receivers coach Angelo Mirando resigned due to "personal issues." It was later learned that Mirando was "was aware" of improper benefits being given to recruit Will Redmond. Redmond is now a freshman on the MSU team.

Mullen hired Tim Brewster to replace Mirando.

"The greatest thing to me is just coming to Starkville, Mississippi," Brewster said. "The people have been so awesome to me and my wife. They have welcomed us very, very quickly. This football team welcomed me."

Brewster's contribution to the wide receiver corp was evident. Chad Bumphis broke the school record with 12 touchdown catches this season. He also set the school record of most TD catches in a career with 24.

"I think he's done a great job," Mullen said of Brewster. "He's just an experienced coach, has really helped them focus and got them all going in the right direction."

The Bulldogs will be losing 18 seniors and might lose another in Tobias Smith if he decides he does not want to return for a sixth year. This senior class is one of the most decorated in school history.

"I love this senior class and everything that they've put into this program in the last four years," Mullen said. "(It's) one of the most successful classes in school history."

MSU is losing four defensive backs and wide receivers from this senior class, including Jim Thorpe Award winner Johnthan Banks.

The Bulldogs have already signed East Mississippi Community College defensive back Justin Cox and junior college wide receiver Jeremey Chappelle.

Mississippi State may also lose some underclassmen to the NFL draft. Jackson and junior defensive back Nickoe Whitley both filled out paperwork with the NFL. They will have until Jan. 15 to make their decision.

After the loss in the Gator Bowl, there was been talk of there being a battle for the quarterback position. Junior Tyler Russell broke several school records in his first year as the signal caller, but his four interceptions against Northwestern has brought up many questions.

Redshirt freshman Dak Prescott may get a chance in spring practice to battle Russell for the starting job.

"I do the full evaluation where we add what directions, what changes, tweaks and all those things we have to make," Mullen said. "(I'll) look at next year's team and see what direction next year's team is going to head in."

There will be a ton of chatter about the Mississippi State football team in the months leading up to spring practice.

Mullen's thoughts will be getting over the hump and competing for championships.

"(With) what we're trying to build, the great thing is an eight-win season, and it's starting to be disappointing at Mississippi State," Mullen said. "Eight-win seasons are starting to get disappointing, so that is the direction you want the program headed in."

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