Which raised one obvious query: what would possess the Mississippi State coaching staff to put this particular bunch through additional mid-week drills? Had they not performed superbly the previous weekend, clamping down on Florida's potent offense and holding the host Gators to just seven points? Of course they did…
…and it wasn't good enough. Not yet, according to McPhee.
"I mean, every day we look to get better. Just because we only gave up one touchdown it doesn't mean we can't get better than what we were Saturday."
By the same token these extra practice demands are much, much easier for Bulldogs, at all positions on both sides of the ball, to accept these days. There is just something about the first real winning streak in a long rebuilding process that inspires everyone to, as McPhee said, look to get better. It is because there are even better things looming ahead for State as they work to complete a couple of pre-season ambitions.
"A lot of guys are real focused on getting 6-2, beating up on UAB," said McPhee. "That's where everybody's attitude is at and where their head is at." It is the visiting Blazers' bad luck that they are all that stand between the Bulldogs and bowl eligibility right now. Not, McPhee notes, between a particular post-season game at this point; just that six-win threshold which assures a SEC squad of a holiday football game.
"I mean, we're not focused on bowls. We're focused on getting the W and not what bowl game we're going to play in."
Not that McPhee and mates are taking Alabama-Birmingham lightly. There is more than enough evidence from other conference peers what can happen when a non-BCS league team comes to a SEC campus. Especially one from the immediate neighborhood. That natural chip on the shoulder pads serves as extra motivation, as State has certainly found out the hard way in the past.
For just one position example, McPhee has a lot of respect for Blazer quarterbacks. Both of them. Junior Bryan Ellis is the slinger of the two and one tough character based on scouting tapes. "He's been taking some hits. But he's a strong man because he stands in the pocket and takes the hits and tries to deliver the god throws. We're going to get after him like we do every other quarterback." Meanwhile soph David Isabelle is a play-making runner, though the season has taken a toll on his legs as well and he might not be full-steam this week.
This has been a curious senior season for McPhee. He led the Bulldogs in sacks (5.0) as a junior transfer and entered the year an all-conference candidate expected to harass quarterbacks at an even faster pace. In one way he has; McPhee has certainly chased passers all over every field each week and leads State in credited hurries with six. Yet he has not scored a true sack in seven games.
Isn't this starting to grind on McPhee's mind?
"Nah, I just thank God for giving me the opportunity to go out each game and play with my teammates, have fun, and get wins." And the fact that the sort of double-blocking McPhee attracts, or the angles he attacks from, tends to flush passers into the waiting arms of teammates like MLB Chris White (2.5 sacks at Florida) is just another sort of success.
"Its really a team effort," McPhee said. "The whole d-line, linebackers, secondary. We were talking to each other on the plane on the way back. We weren't talking about stats or nothing, we were just excited to be 5-2."
And even more excited about the chance to score #6 this Homecoming weekend.