Not There Yet But Getting There

Here are my reflections about Mississippi State's heartbreaking 41-34 loss to Auburn Saturday afternoon on the road at Auburn.

As I read the Gene's Page forums, I see a lot of disappointment among MSU fans. And I feel that disappointment myself. A loss such as Mississippi State suffered today is very difficult to deal with. In fact, you could say it's almost heartbreaking because you have an empty feeling in your stomach there is no cure for other than time. But the reason for that feeling is not simply because it was a close loss to a good SEC team but because most Mississippi State fans felt this could be a statement game, a game that tells the nation that Mississippi State football is for real. You lose this game then many MSU fans believe it says the opposite to the nation, that MSU is not for real. And the thought of that hurts.

While the hurt leaves you empty, the play of Mississippi State shows that MSU football is for real. You don't win nine of your last twelve games, as MSU had done, and not be real. You don't go into Jordan-Hare Stadium as a favorite by many prognosticators over a team that won last year's national championship and had numerous four and five stars players dotting their roster and play them toe to toe right down to the last second and not be real.

Those things say the opposite, they say Mississippi State football is for real.

But with that said, does that mean we are where we want to be? No, but we aren't that far from it. We want to be able to say on a consistent basis that we have won nine of the last twelve. But it takes time to achieve that when you have been down for so long, as Mississippi State's football program has over the decades.

That history of losses is what makes this kind of loss feel even worse. But unlike the vast majority of those losses, this loss was different. We competed on a even basis throughout the game but came up just an inch or two short as the last seconds ticked off the clock. The Auburn fans and players acted as if they had just defeated the national champions when in fact they had defeated Mississippi State, a team that those same fans felt was a guaranteed win in most cases in the past. That in itself is a statement that we are heading on the right path.

Dan Mullen is getting us there folks. We obviously aren't there yet but we are getting there one step at a time. Despite it being a loss, today's loss was one of those steps.

Think about it, we played toe to toe against a young but very talented Auburn team on their home field. I wasn't one of those folks who felt this was an automatic win in our pocket because it is always difficult to win at Auburn no matter if they are a young team or a veteran team. Historical facts back up that statement. But I do believe the MSU program has moved up a notch and would compete on an even basis against a team like Auburn, even on their home field. And we did that; we competed hard right to the end but came up an inch or two short.

But the bottom line is we competed on an even basis with them today, on their home field in a very hostile environment. We never once folded or ever gave up even when we got down by 14 points with about 8 minutes to go. And even in the 4th quarter when we had to replace two injured offensive linemen with two redshirt freshmen offensive linemen we continued to play well on the offensive side of the ball.

We gave them everything we had but they simply made the big play at the end. Teams that are used to winning make those kind of plays more often than not. We aren't quite where Auburn is but we are getting so, so close to making those kind of plays ourselves.

In the past, the vast majority of Mississippi State football teams wouldn't even have been in the position this team was today, but this is not the Mississippi State of old.

This program is in transition, and we have many of the right ingredients in place to make us a very, very good program in the best conference in America in the near future. There are still other ingredients that have to be put in place but we have the right people in place to do that.

While I'm sure there will be other heartbreaks like this one and maybe even some that will feel even worse as we move up the ladder in this transition, I feel almost certain there will be many, many more good times than heartbreaks as we continue our road to becoming a very good football program.


Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.


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