Bulldogs Dealing With Disappointment

FAYETTEVILLE — Mississippi State got to experience postseason play for the first time under coach Sylvester Croom last winter, when it surprised the Southeastern Conference by winning eight games.

This week, as the Bulldogs prepare for Saturday's game against Arkansas, they're coping with the realization that they're not going back next month.

MSU's bowl hopes were officially dashed after its 32-7 loss at top-ranked Alabama last Saturday. It dropped the Bulldogs to 3-7 and made them the second team in the SEC — joining Tennessee — to know they'll be staying home for the holidays.

But Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom is hoping the disappointment won't deter his team. He said Mississippi State still has plenty to play for its final two games.

"You play to win a game," Croom said. "That's what it's all about — to win the game. The one game you play.

"And that's all it's ever about is the respect and winning and walking off the field as the best team."

Unfortunately for MSU, it hasn't been able to call itself the best team on most Saturday's this season.

The Bulldogs were hoping for bigger and better after last season's successes. Instead, MSU has been faced with frustrations from the beginning of the season.

MSU dropped its opener at Louisiana Tech. It was on the wrong end of the 3-2 loss to Auburn. Then there was the 34-3 blowout against struggling Tennessee.

"It's just been a struggle from start to finish," Croom said. "But I am proud of the way our guys have competed all year. ... Our attitude has been good and going into each game thinking we can win the football game. So that's been a positive. But the results have been frustrating."

Most of MSU's shortcomings have been on offense, where points and yards have been elusive.

MSU — which is led by running back Anthony Dixon and quarterback Tyson Lee — is last in the Southeastern Conference in scoring (15.2 points) and 10th in total offense (283 yards).

The Bulldogs have scored seven points or less in four of their 10 games. That includes the 32-7 loss to Alabama in which MSU gained just 167 yards.

"At times we don't do things like we do in practice," Croom said. "... The throw is there and we just don't make it. The catch is there and we don't make the catch. That's what we've dealt with all year long."

But Croom doesn't intend to let the Bulldogs wallow in the shortcomings. His players don't intend to quit either.

"It's tough," Lee said. "But the one thing we realize is that we have to finish. Whether things are going good or bad in life, on the football field or wherever you are, one thing every champion and real person does is they finish."

So MSU will try to snap a nine-game losing streak to the Razorbacks and win a game on Senior Day.

It may not be a bowl game, but Croom believes the Bulldogs' character will get an important test Saturday.

"We've got two games left," Croom said. "Two big ball games, conference opponents, people in the SEC West that we play every year. So it's real important that we finish strong and I think our kids will do that."

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