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After 2 lopsided losses, Mississippi State rests, regroups

Mississippi State has lost Southeastern Conference games over the past two weeks by a combined 67 points.

Considering that lack of success, the Bulldogs’ break comes at a good time.

Mississippi State (3-2, 1-2 SEC) is in the middle of its bye week and doesn’t play again until hosting BYU on Oct. 14. Coach Dan Mullen said the Bulldogs are using the break to work on fundamentals, get some rest and make sure some of the younger players on the roster are ready to play if needed.

The first half of the season was notable for its lack of drama. The Bulldogs’ five games have been decided by an average of 36.2 points.

Mississippi State looked great in lopsided wins over Chattanooga, Louisiana Tech and LSU. The Bulldogs beat the Tigers 37-7 on Sept. 16, jumping into the national rankings at No. 17. But then came big losses to Georgia and Auburn and they tumbled out of the national conversation in a hurry.

Mullen said he hopes his young players can take the ups and down from the first half of the season and become better players.

“Winning and getting attention was new. Getting knocked down was new,” Mullen said. “Going and not doing the things you need to do at Auburn. They were very different games. They learned from that experience. Now how do we respond to that with the bye week? How do we transition back to winning?”

Mississippi State struggled in several aspects during the Georgia and Auburn losses, but the most glaring weakness might be the passing offense.

Junior Nick Fitzgerald completed just 27 of 62 passes (43.5 percent) in the two losses, throwing one touchdown and four interceptions. The 6-foot-5, 230-pounder is still an effective runner, with 343 yards rushing and five touchdowns, but the lack of progress in the passing game is an issue.

The Bulldogs are last in the SEC in passing efficiency.

“It’s got to get better. He’s got to get better,” Mullen said. “We talk a lot, and this is a great week to get to go work. We’re working on a lot of technique this week.”

If Mississippi State plays better, there are several winnable games over the next month. The Bulldogs host BYU and Kentucky before a difficult road game at Texas A&M. They then host UMass on Nov. 4.

Mullen remained optimistic that better times are ahead.

“They’re learning,” Mullen said. “Some of it’s good; some of it’s bad. It is what it is. I try to see what they’re doing and guide the ship in the right direction, emotionally.”


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