Smith on Sports: Bulldogs set for visit from former coach

Danny P. Smith

Sports Editor

It’s the date that most followers of Mississippi State football have had circled on their calendars for the last 10 months now.

That date is Sept. 29, 2018.

On Saturday, former MSU coach Dan Mullen will bring his Florida Gators to Starkville to face the Bulldogs. There will be a little bit of interest in that game.

It has been exactly 10 months since Mullen was introduced as the head football coach at Florida. He returned to the Gators on Nov. 26, 2017.

The move did not set well with the Bulldogs. They did not like the way Mullen departed MSU after saying repeatedly how much he liked Starkville and how happy he was here.

That’s why Saturday will be such an emotional day for many Bulldogs when they look across the field and see their former head coach and members of the staff that went with him on the other sideline. They can't appreciate the way they left MSU abruptly for Gainesville.

For Bulldogs like wide receiver Osirus Mitchell, who played in the system of Mullen and offensive coaches John Hevesy and Billy Gonzales last year, they are going to try and treat it like any other game.

"I'll speak to them after the game, but before the game, I'm going to treat them like any other coach and any other team and act like I didn't know them," Mitchell said on Tuesday night.

Even though the players won't admit it publicly, there will nothing they would like better than to dish out a little misery to Mullen and his staff because of what happened. The way for MSU to do that will be to play hard enough to pin a loss on the Gators on Saturday, but it has to find a way to keep its cool in the process.

At least that’s the approach coach Joe Moorhead is taking this week with his Bulldogs.

“Ultimately, the emotional component is going to be attached to this game as relative to coach Mullen and his staff being with these guys for an extended period of time, but at the end of the day, I’m not going to be on the field taking any snaps and neither are any of our assistants and neither are any of their coaches,” Moorhead said. “They’re not going to play the game. The game is going to be played on the field between the white lines between 11 Mississippi State players and 11 Florida players. That’s how it’s going to be.

“I don’t think you can discount the emotional part of it, but you have to manage that. People use different things for motivation, and that’s not for me to tell them what to use for their individual motivation. I know it’s not going to have a bearing or factor in the outcome of the game once the ball gets kicked off.”

Moorhead and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy have both expressed the desire for the Bulldogs to take care of their side of the football first. On Wednesday night, it seems the word most used was "focus."

That's what it will take for MSU to cut down on the amount of penalties that hurt it so much against Kentucky.

The problems that have prevented the Bulldogs from being their best on the field have been well-documented with the numerous amount of penalties they have committed. MSU had its poorest game in that area against Kentucky with 16 flags for 139 yards.

That can not happen Saturday if the Bulldogs want to have success and get the win that so many so want to see.

Danny P. Smith is the 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 SDN or its staff.