Two members of the Mississippi State football team picked up national honors on Wednesday, which is another indication that the Bulldogs are headed in a positive direction as a team this season.
MSU football coach Dan Mullen likes the identity that his team is beginning to develop after home wins over Jackson State 56-9 and Auburn 28-10.
He's anxious to see how the Bulldogs respond to the first road game of the season at Troy Saturday. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. for the internet only broadcast on ESPN3.com.
"I do think we're closer," Mullen said about the state of his squad on Wednesday's Southeastern Conference teleconference. "We wanted to be a balanced team and mix things up between run and pass on the offensive side of the ball and execute clean. We're getting closer to that.
"Defensively, we play a lot of guys. That personality to me is starting to come out and I want to see how it goes this week. Do we have the confidence when we go on the road to continue to execute and play our game like we've been able to do at home?"
Wednesday's recognition came on each side of the football for the Bulldogs.
On defense, MSU defensive back and former East Webster player Johnthan Banks was chosen the Jim Thorpe Defensive Back of the Week.
Banks intercepted quarterback Kiehl Frazier twice and was part of a defensive effort that held the Tigers to minus-2 yards passing in the first half.
The performance also landed Banks on the Paul Hornung Award Weekly Honor Roll this week and he was selected the CollegeSportsMadness.com's National Defensive Player of the Week as well as the CollegeFootballPerformance.com's All-Purpose Performer of the Week.
On offense for the Bulldogs, senior tight end Marcus Green picked up the John Mackey Tight End of the Week.
Green caught four passes for 54 yards against Auburn and had two touchdown grabs. He is one of four tight ends around the country in FBS with three touchdown catches this season.
With his play in the first two games of the season, Green also enters the picture for the Mackey Award, signifying the best tight end in the country. That award will be given out on Dec. 6.
on defensive front
Mullen may not be a defensive-minded coach, but he understands the importance of how much rotating defensive lineman means to winning.
"As you go through a season and especially in the Southeastern Conference, you have to be deep and have to be able to rotate those defensive linemen in and out because to me, that's where you can win football games," Mullen said. "If you can control the line of scrimmage, you are going to win a lot of football games. We need for those guys to improve so we can continue to play fresh guys throughout four quarters of the game."
Senior defensive tackle Josh Boyd is the unquestionable leader of the unit, but Mullen wants to see growth from sophomore defensive end Kaleb Eulls, sophomore defensive tackle Curtis Virges and junior defensive end Denico Autry as starters and other younger defensive lineman.
"We still have a lot of improving to do, especially with those younger guys, but it's great they have gotten some experience on the field," Mullen said. "As they continue to grow, they are going to continue to improve."
bounce back well
A tough opening-season loss to an in-state rival can be deflating and send a team into a downward spiral for the rest of the season.
Coach Joker Phillips was pleased with the way his Kentucky Wildcats bounced back from a 32-14 loss at Louisville to handle Kent State 47-14.
"(With a loss) in the first game of the season against an in-state rival where you don't perform well and get the win, sometimes there are concerns with how we would bounce back the next week, but I was pleased with the way the guys accepted the way we played and wanted to build on it," Phillips said. "They did a good job of coming back. We had a really short week, which I felt was a good thing for us."
Phillips said the Wildcats took the Monday off after playing Louisville on Sunday, then practiced hard Tuesday and Wednesday, had a light workout on Thursday and had Friday off to prepare to play on Saturday.
"We got a chance to play and got on the field in a hurry, so I think that had a lot to do with it also," Phillips said.
Georgia gets off
to a better start
The Georgia Bulldogs have won their first two games of the season, which is a much better start than going 0-2 in 2011.
Coach Mark Richt was concerned about last year for Georgia and the way it would begin after all of the negative feedback in the offseason.
To the Bulldogs credit, Richt said they overcame it.
"There was stuff stirred up even more lively during the offseason and even before the season began," Richt said of last season. "The guys stuck together and believed in each other. Somehow we're trying to keep that type of focus. You look at last year and we're fighting for our lives. Now we've got to keep fighting for our lives because it's such a fine line between winning and losing. I have been proud of the resolve of the team and energy of the team."
Georgia has won two games with similar scores by first defeating Buffalo 45-23, then knocking off Southeastern Conference newcomer Missouri 41-20 on the road.
The Bulldogs host Florida Atlantic Saturday night with a chance to extend their record to 3-0.