The Mississippi State Bulldogs collectively took a sigh of relief over the weekend after escaping Troy, Ala., with a 30-24 football win on Saturday.
On Sunday, the Bulldogs found out they were ranked 23rd nationally and they look to make corrections to the flaws which were exposed against the Troy Trojans.
“It feels pretty good to be 3-0,” MSU coach Dan Mullen said. “That’s the great thing, It’s a little easier to learn when you’re looking at your mistakes after a win than sometimes in a loss, because in a loss, you’re looking at your mistakes and saying what could have happened? (If) you look at a win, you still feel good about the win and are looking at ‘hey, I have to be better and I have to do things better.’ The working part of it will be a little tougher on them too, because of coming off a win.”
Waiting for the Bulldogs after a long week of preparation will be a hungry South Alabama team that will present many of the same problems State saw from Troy.
“South Alabama – a tough team,” Mullen said. “I know being a newer program, they have a lot of similarities offensively to the team we played this past week in Troy. A very similar offensive system they run. They’re going to spread you to try to create mismatches, try to get everybody out covering the pass game and try to run the football.
“Defensively, they’re pretty stout. They’re only giving up 300 yards a game, have been a very sound defensive football team, and they play really hard. That’s what you see when you watch them on film.”
Since the Jaguars will look a lot like the Trojans, the Bulldogs must fix the dropped passes and missed assignments from a week ago.
“To me, it’s a focus issue,” Mullen said. “As a group, it’s focus and confidence, and you get that in practice. In practice sometimes, guys can go in and they just assume they’re going to catch a ball and they start to take their eyes off it. Just in drills, they can get ‘I’m working on something else, (and) I just catch the ball as part of it.’ You can’t be that way. You have to have a complete focus every time you catch the football.”
As far as the defensive side, Mullen has a plan there as well.
“We had 22 missed tackles, 18 missed assignments and a couple of loafs, which you can’t have,” Mullen said. “The tempo got to some guys at times. The guys weren’t lined up in place and we weren’t ready to go. The big part was the missed tackles that allowed them to keep drives going. The tempo never became the factor until they were driving the ball down the field, then the tempo would become the factor.”
On the injury front, Mullen gave his thoughts on which Bulldogs would be available for this week’s game.
“Arceto (Clark) is expected to play this week,” Mullen said. “Sam Williams had a concussion and is out (Monday) but should be OK to go Saturday. Brandon Hill is somebody I’d list as questionable for us with an ankle sprain. He is pretty adamant that he’ll be ready to play, but our trainers think he’ll be ready. I want to see how practice goes with him.
“Tobias (Smith) is between questionable and probable. I want to see how well he looks throughout the week. One of our original plans was to let him play that full game against Auburn and then potentially shut him down a little bit afterwards. I’m sure he wants to get back out there on the field. I got to see how he holds up this week.”
Mullen said receiver Malcolm Johnson is still doubtful this week, but hopes to have him back for the Kentucky game in three weeks, while defensive back Corey Broomfield has a shoulder problem he’s played with all year and doesn’t expect that to change.