An Attitude Adjustment Coming At Mississippi State

HOOVER, Ala. -- Mississippi coach Sylvester Croom said he didn't believe his team could beat Tulane in the season opener last year.

That's not what Bulldogs tailback Jerious Norwood was thinking even before MSU beat Tulane 28-7 on Sept. 4, 2004 at home.

"I think we can win every game," Norwood said. "Yeah, I thought we could beat Tulane. I know, it was coach Croom's first game at Mississippi State, his first as a head coach.

"I still thought we could win."

That type of attitude was missing among the majority of the MSU players for most of the 2004 season.

That seems to be changing.

At least that was the message being delivered during the second day of the annual Southeastern Conference Football Media Days on Thursday in the Wynfrey Hotel.

A check from the neck up might have been what the Bulldogs needed after stumbling along a year ago.

Granted a 3-8 overall record in 2004 is nothing to write home about but one could see MSU was increasing with confidence every game deep into the year.

But ...

Croom found his first season tougher than expected.

"We didn't know how to win," said Croom, who became the first black coach in the SEC last year. "When I walked into that room the first day when we had the press conference when I took the job, I knew then that it was going to be tougher than what I originally had thought because you could see in the way our players sat in their seats, that we were defeated.

"Thing about coach Croom is when he talks, you better listen," Norwood said. "What he's got to say is positive. He knows what he's talking about.

"He knows how to communicate."

Being honest, and sometimes harsh, seems to be sinking in with his team.

Again, it's all about attitude.

"Coach Croom is very disciplined," said Bulldogs senior center Chris McNeil. "He wants you to not only be successful on the field, but off the field as well. We had some players come and go and others that ha@No Style:ve come through some things."

After that season-opening win against the Green Wave, Mississippi State lost five straight games and didn't taste victory again until Oct. 23 by shocking Florida 38-31. It followed up with a 22-7 win against Kentucky the following week.

Although the Bulldogs finished out by losing their last three games, they looked like they definitely were getting better.

In those last three games, MSU lost at Alabama (30-14), at home against Arkansas (24-21) and on the road at Ole Miss (20-3).

"I don't know what our record will be this year," Croom said. "I just know we will be better because of the way we finished last year and what we did in the spring.

"I'm looking forward to it."

Mississippi State welcomes back 17 starters, eight each on offense and defense and one more on the special teams.

Norwood, a 6-foot, 202-pound senior, is the most celebrated. In 2004, Norwood averaged 5.4 yards-per-carry (1,050 yards on 195 attempts) and scored 11 touchdowns.

"Jerious is our best football player, particularly on the offensive side right now and definitely one of our best leaders right now," Croom said. "I expect a great season out of him. I think he was right around a little over a thousand yards last year and should have had about 3-or 400 more but that's par for the course when you first get into a new offense (multiple pro style)."

Croom said his main objective is to get his players to understand the "Bulldog way," something that perhaps has been missing in the past.

"That was a hard sell," Croom said. "Doing things the Bulldog way, playing as a team, playing tough physical football, playing smart football, being in the best possible condition that we can be in.

" Never ever giving up. It has taken some time to buy into that, for some guys to buy into that philosophy. Some did not buy into that philosophy. They chose to go elsewhere. We wish them well. But the ones who stayed believe now in our way of doing things. That's our attitude."

Again, it's all about attitude.

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