By MATTHEW STEVENS
Mississippi State keeps saying it has the type of offensive gameplan that allows for them to come back from an early deficit in the Southeastern Conference, but the history doesn’t support that current belief in 2010.
The Bulldogs (7-3, 3-3 in SEC play) have not won a league game this season in which they been behind and the same recipe for disaster happened Saturday night in Tuscaloosa when Alabama took a 20-3 lead into the locker room at halftime. The Crimson Tide ended up winning a 30-10 decision.
“When you give up one big play, it has to stop there,” Mississippi State Dan Mullen said Sunday. “We’re not waving panic flags out here. What we need to teach those young players that made mistakes…we need to see improvement out of them.”
Mullen dismissed again that the notion that the MSU offense is unable to generate offense when they get behind early on the scoreboard.
“We have done that in games against Kentucky, against Georgia (but) last night we did not,” Mullen said. “That comes with experience.”
In three straight offensive plays, Alabama (8-3, 5-2) was able to turn a 6-3 advantage in a defensive game into a 27-3 blowout in favor of the Crimson Tide.
“Getting ahead of these guys is important as well, so those big plays helped us do that,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said.
Mississippi State has come back from early and late deficits during the 2010 season as they ran off 26 consecutive points after allowing Houston to march down the field on the game’s opening possession. At home against UAB, State found itself down 24-23 in the fourth quarter before a pair of Derek DePasquale field goals ensured a victory.
“We kept shooting ourselves in the foot with turnovers and penalties when we had to seize the momentum back,” Mullen said. “We just let the game get away from us (against Alabama).”
One of the problems with an MSU comeback against quality competition has been its inability to consistently put together a passing game with junior Chris Relf as the Montgomery native finished with just 70 yards and a 50-percent completion percentage.
“We knew Mississippi State was a great running team, and we knew we going to have to stop the run in order to be effective,” Alabama defensive back Robert Lester said. “The defensive line did a great job of hitting their gaps and making plays on the quarterback and forcing him to make bad throws as well.”
During the Bulldogs six-game winning streak, the Mississippi State formula has been grinding out yards with junior tailback Vick Ballard and handing the lead over to the complicated blitz schemes of new defensive coordinator Manny Diaz.
Ballard finished Saturday against the Crimson Tide for 80 yards on 19 carries but MSU had only 51 total rushing yards in the second half.
“I ran decent and was able to get free a couple of times, but it’s hard to run the ball against a defense that is almost always expecting the run,” Ballard said.
State ranked 22nd in both AP and coaches’ polls
After its 20-point loss at Alabama, Mississippi State went down five spots to 22nd in the latest ESPN/USA Today Coaches' poll.
Mississippi State (7-3, 3-3 in the Southeastern Conference) received 184 points in the week 12 version of the coaches' poll that was released Sunday morning. The coaches' poll is part of the BCS formula used to determine the national champion.
Six Southeastern Conference teams (Auburn, LSU, Alabama, Arkansas, South Carolina and MSU) were a part of the new poll, which was the most of any other league. Mullen discussed the idea of five of the six teams being from the Western Division of the league.
“When you have such a deep league like the Southeastern Conference – the power is going to sway back and forth,” Mullen said. “We just happen to be on the tougher side.”
Oregon kept the top spot in the coaches' poll by getting 46 of 59 possible first place votes. Auburn maintained the second spot as the Tigers received six first-place votes. Boise State leap-frogged TCU for the third spot receiving five first-place votes while the Horned Frogs had a pair of top-spot votes. Cheeseheads in the upper Midwest can still rejoice as rounding out the top five this week was Wisconsin after the Badgers dropped 83 points on Indiana this Saturday.
Mullen is among the 59 head coaches in the voting process in 2010.
Mississippi State was also placed 22nd in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll released before the coaches' poll.
“We’ve always responded the right way after adversity since I got to this program,” Mullen said. “We got used to winning around here and it’ll be interesting to see how we respond after a loss following six straight wins.”
Oregon was also top-ranked in the AP poll followed by Auburn, Boise State, TCU and LSU at No. 5.
Mississippi State's opponent this week Arkansas (8-2, 4-2) is ranked at No. 13.