FOOTBALL: 'Dawgs get ready for clash with 'Cats

In the wake of Saturday's 38-31 loss at Mississippi State, Florida coach Ron Zook said what so many others had thought about the Bulldogs.

"All I can tell you is if that football team would have played like they did against us, they'd have been 5-0 instead of 1-4," Zook said

It's too late to change the recent past, but it's not too late for the Bulldogs (2-5, 1-3 SEC) to build on their stunning victory against Florida and salvage some tangible positives from a difficult season.

The best thing the victory did was give the Bulldogs the encouragement they need to keep working and listening to first-year coach Sylvester Croom.

"It's like Bear Bryant used to say: any time you win, the grass is greener, the flowers smell better and your wife looks prettier," Croom said. "It was pretty much the same routine (on Sunday), except that I wasn't nauseated when I woke up."

Cornerback Kevin Dockery added, "It's always going to feel better after a win, especially over a team like Florida. It's just good to get rid of that nasty feeling we've been having in the pit of our stomach. Good to get a little swagger back."

It's even better to take that swagger and do something with it on Saturday. Fortunately for the Bulldogs they play at home again this week against a Kentucky team with a five-game losing streak.

That means the Bulldogs have to stop celebrating and keep moving forward.

"We've got to let it go," Dockery said. "We don't want to take one step up and take a step back. We've got to keep building."

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Might as well throw out all those stats from the first six games if the Bulldogs are going to play the way they played against Florida. Mississippi State only scored seven points against Maine and entered last Saturday's game ranked last nationally -- 117th -- in scoring (12.5 points per game) and 114th in total offense (280.5 yards), but the Bulldogs got physical against Florida and ripped the Gators for 31 points and 409 yards, 251 by rushing.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Mississippi State has the SEC's youngest defense, and that defense became even younger last week when coach Sylvester Croom replaced three veterans with two true freshmen and a sophomore. The Mississippi State defense did give up 441 yards last week and allowed the Gators to climb back in the game time after time, but the Bulldogs also forced three turnovers, including one to set up the winning score.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "The things I've been telling our prospects is that we are a better football team than our record indicates, that we will get better and we will build toward a championship trophy. What I hope is this will inspire confidence in them to come be a part of what we're building." -- Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom.

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Kentucky at Mississippi State, Oct. 30 -- Two weeks ago this game looked like one that Mississippi State might be able to win with some luck. Now, after last week's 38-31 victory over then-No. 20 Florida, this looks like a game the Bulldogs should win if they can continue to play physical football and move the ball on the ground.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: RB Jerious Norwood -- Norwood has often struggled for running room this season but he got plenty of help from his blockers against Florida and made the most of it, rushing for 174 hard-earned yards on a career-high 29 carries and two touchdowns. He earned the SEC offensive player of the week award. "Jerious' play was tremendous," MSU coach Sylvester Croom said. "I'm a big back guy. I like big backs. Jerious is not biggest back in the world, but he runs big. Barry Sanders wasn't a big back, but he played like a big back. He had power."

QB Omarr Conner -- The success in the running game allowed Conner to make more plays, and he took advantage of it. After returning from a knee injury that forced him to miss two games, Conner held the offense together under pressure and completed 15 of 24 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown and rushing 50 yards and a touchdown.

LBs Quinton Culberson, Titus Brown and Gabe O'Neal -- Coach Sylvester Croom's decision to go with younger players, especially these three linebackers, may run into difficulty at times this season but it's a move toward a better future with faster linebackers.

ROSTER REPORT: The open date before the Florida game helped the Bulldogs get a lot healthier, and the game didn't produce any new significant injuries.

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