From The Dawghouse

We recognize the Good Lord authored all things, but there must be a special address in His heaven for the mortals who cobbled His pre-created material into such divine items as the printing press, Coca-Cola, the small block Chevy, aspirin, Ray-Bans, satellite radio, Krispy Kremes, and Southwest Airlines. Oh, and college football. Especially SEC football.

OK, yes, I understand even better than most of you there's no lack of contrasting evidence $EC matters are as often directed from the more infernal address. Example: who'd a thunk State would get a better break from CUSA's replay official this year than our own league guy on that blasted HE WAS NOT OVER THE LINE call in '09? But for all our historic Bulldog frustrations over the eras, with all the infuriated suspicions that we're treated as second-class conference cousins…let me remind all just how good we've got it.

Next example: Houston. Specifically, their facility and their support or should I say the lack of each? I know there's a lot of competition for sports dollars in the nation's fourth-largest urban conglomeration, and there are demographic and economic reasons why not quite so many of those dollars are in circulation lately. But there was just something a little sad about a program celebrating a fourth-straight sellout when A) that crowd was just over 32,000 and B) maybe 75% of the sold seats were occupied. For a SEC game they had reasonable expectations in, at that.

And there's a lot more sad about the stadium. I ventured up to the very roof of the press area, and lemme tell you it's an effort to clamber through a ‘door' that might hold a window A/C unit. How low-rent is the operation? Seriously, railway and semi hauling pallets are on the roof to serve as foundation for TV cameras. Splinters and all. Jack Cristil is glad he'll never have to see that radio ‘booth' again.

To their credit, and it may well require a lot of credit in this market, big plans are displayed in the printed program and talked up elsewhere. Realistically? I just don't know if it's worth the trouble unless the Cougars somehow have Heaven itself intervene and drop them into a major conference. This is not a knock on the fine folk doing their darnedest there, either, one of whom got her start with State as a p.r. aide. Kudos to Cassie Arner's crew for a press job well done last night, and I did y'all the courtesy of departing premises before midnight. Barely.

What I'm working back around to though is how we at Mississippi State should daily offer Dogly thanks that by great grace we somehow were invited to the original SEC party. Any who ever doubt the value of membership in the uber-league just needs to make a tour of CUSA to see how the other half lives. Or, more often, doesn't. No wonder they hate the B.C.S. system so; no wonder we at State need to hope it remains in force for a very long time. Because those two sets of three initials are why Mississippi State in an utterly non-urban setting and with little legacy of gridiron success know we can pay the bills.

And, have hope for bigger and better things in years to come. Especially if the Bulldog team watched in action last night continues developing along these encouraging lines.

I'm not going into any detailed after-analysis of the game (not offended if you cheer now). I dragged in here at Starkville Central just an hour ago for one thing. Flying, even handled by the admirable Southwest folk, is still a grind, though this trip was much more enjoyable than usual due to the large, passionate, and happy Bulldog folk accompanying. I won't risk missing any names so leave it at, thanks to all for the kind words and the suggestions as well. You guys and gals are all great credits to the MSU family.

Plus I have a magazine deadline next Sunday, the pre-season basketball issue; and I want it done before cranking the Kraut hatchback and heading south'ards. So to those who gripe my columns are too long, you should be happier with this limited effort.

But I do want to re-state one thing about the game, or more about the kind of game Dan Mullen wants State to play, that I put in an additional Sunday column I file weekly for Fox Sports now. That's what some of you working on in the, and I can't resist putting it this way, Hobby Lobby today, neck warped to hold cel phone to ear while listening to Mullen's noon teleconference. Explaining to an audience not necessarily familiar with Bulldog football, I dared stating that while Mullen made his professional name preparing and play calling for flashy ‘spread' systems, last night revealed the truth.

For all the image of new-style coaching, Mullen approaches the game with old-school attitude. Be more physical, tougher, and efficient than the other guys on both offense and defense. I'd add special teams but, ahem, the special teams coach himself has a lotttttt to get done in this area for the second half of the season. No offense intended, sir.

Now take the above paragraph with this crucial qualifier: when he can. Houston was a perfect setting, an ideal foe, for Mullen to show how he would love to play this game every weekend. The Cougars have superb skill players on offense, and parenthetically we aren't ashamed to admit State can be glad a couple of the best weren't available. Otherwise the game would have been, as another sideline sage said in the fourth quarter, 47-46 going to the last possession. Either way. I don't mind noting that State is allowed to benefit from such great breaks, including Georgia's suspended super-snagger…because darn it, we deserve it after more than enough decades seeing all the breaks on the other foot. Or ankles, and I do hope State gets a late-December bowl berth so maybe Leon Berry can participate.

What I'm saying is that when Mullen gets this program in his desired shape he'll presumably have a team winning more on fundamentals than flash. My only hesitation there is the old wisdom of a former MSU defensive coordinator who warned, offensive coaches get bored and out-smart themselves. It does seem Mullen is maturing on the job in this area though.

I also need qualify all-the-above with the ‘when he can' bit again. There are still a lot of teams on State's slate that these Dogs are not going to overpower for four quarters, or in at least one upcoming case hold their physical own with. Not yet. Which is another way of saying, don't start expecting this team to, say, weekly generate more rushing yardage than the other team's passing or even total yardage.

But they did it last night, against an ideal matchup for such an approach. A sign of things to come if Mullen has his way.

OK. Catching up on a few items before turning this off and eating some asprin for supper. I posted last night the comment that with 12 touchdowns Vick Ballard is ¾ of the way already to the MSU season TD record of 16, set in 1952 by Jackie Parker and tied in 2007 by Boobie Dixon. Yes, this is rushing and receiving scores. But just take the rushing part; Ballard is scoring a touchdown every 5.3 carries. Every. 5.3. Carries. Roll that through your MSU mind a moment and remember, all in just half of a season. We could be seeing some serious history made this year, gang.

Related to that, as I also noted last night…Parker set the record the year before Jack Cristil called his first State game. Now my mind is boggling at the implications.

Also, we've had a rather vigorous and in a few cases upset debate of late about expansion of DWS. I've tried to clarify my own position: renovate the existing house to SEC standard first, while starting construction of skyboxes and suites in both the north end zone AND on the existing west grandstand at quarter-deck level. By the way this would mean building a new press box above the upper deck, about as high as it is at Neyland Stadium for garsh sakes. And then include some new general seating in front of the north end zone additions. Some, maybe many disagree. Fine, but don't call me names for not being in perfect accord with your own vision(s). I'm Southern Baptist after all and know how easy it is to find one small area of theological difference and turn it into a mammoth gulf. Let's not go down that track with this.

Anyway, I'm calling a moratorium on participating in this message board debate for the time being, as nobody is changing minds. I can tell y'all though that at Houston some folk in position to know offered some not-for-attribution-yet clues to the overall process. First, the football facility Dan wants built and Scott Stricklin would put in the northwest corner of campus, behind Palmeiro and above the practice fields? It's looking like a $20 million job which is cheaper than I anticipated.

Second, those sketches seen of proposed stadium additions up to and including bowling-in? Forget ‘em, they were architect's ideas and suggestions. An entirely new proposal has arrived, and I'm gonna seek a sneaked peak at it tomorrow around the regular Monday presser. No, I don't have a camera phone either.

Third. Some heavyweight folk are involved with this process, including those behind the campus ‘master plan' being finalized. Folk who handled Olympics operations, I mean. And the company working up stadium ideas has built most of the best new professional venues around today. It will take a whole lot o' cash to convert any concepts into concrete, but the real reason to be talking this today is, well, Mississippi State is working on it today. Not waiting for a what-if future as some seem to believe, and certainly like to accuse me of.

Now, all that said…I'll gladly leave the subject to MSU's administration and fund raising arm which is working overtime at the moment already. I'll turn total attention to the second half of the 2010 season and Mullen's team as they try to earn bowl eligibility before October is out. A lot to ask given that State hasn't smelled success in Gainesville since, what, 1965?

It might still require a little divine intervention. But why not this team, this year?

Gene's Page Top Stories