The Bulldogs are obsessed with success in Saturday's contest at Scott Field (6:06, ESPN), just not for any historical reasons. "It's a huge game, just like any game is," said Day.
"But this is the one we need a win, we have to get a top-notch team win. So everyone wants this win and everyone is putting a lot of work in and everyone is being focused. You can see in peoples' eyes they want this win."
That's because instead of seeking to change history, these Bulldogs see an opportunity to earn their own place in the SEC sunshine. At 2-2 overall and 0-1 SEC, any conference victory would put Mississippi State back on the right season track. It would also ease if not entirely erase the sting of letting another Tiger team off the hook as Auburn claimed a last-drive win that every Dog knows ought have been in their own SEC account.
Making the best of the early-season situation, State players responded with one blowout victory and some productive practices to, hopefully, fix the flaws that cost them dearly on the road. There's no better way to measure progress than by going toe-to-toe with the #10-ranked Tigers (4-1, 1-1).
"It would show we're a team to be reckoned with," Day said. "We've put in a lot of hard work, there's been some close games we lost. But I mean this is a big game to prove that."
The Mississippi State offense certainly knows the burden of proving they can perform against a rightly-respected defense. Though to their credit, Bulldog teams have been chipping-away at this nemesis for a few seasons now, ever since that thorough walloping absorbed in 2007. In Coach Dan Mullen's debut season in fact his offense sat practically on the Tiger goal line with repeated snaps to take the lead, only to be shut down shy. Last November, in Baton Rouge, and without rushing leader LaDarius Perkins the Dogs moved the ball and had decent threats for real points.
Maybe 2013 is when everything falls together…or perhaps not. And Day for one is not reading too much into all the yards and points LSU allowed last week at Georgia. In the SEC so far a ‘trend' is what happened one snap ago after all. And, "They're putting in a lot of hard work," said Day of the Tigers from his own home state.
"It's about whoever is the best team and makes the least mistakes." Execution, in another word so despised of fans but absolutely true for the participants.
Troy is neither literally nor figuratively in anything like the same league as LSU, but the Bulldogs came out of that win with refreshed confidence in their '13 gameplans and plays. This includes the area which counts most, the offensive line. They played all but a series or so without center Day in fact, as he served a one-half suspension for his actions at Auburn. Watching most of the home game wasn't fun for him but did allow senior cohort Dylan Holley his big chance.
"Oh, I think he's a great player," said the starter, who is back in good graces for October. "I feel we're basically even-matched. I'm more experienced than him but he knows exactly what to do and he's a hard worker too. He graded like 90-something on that game, too." Though the greatest ‘grade' came from fellow linemen when right tackle Charles Siddoway raced downfield and into the end zone on one of State's big second-quarter scoring plays. "I was watching and ‘dang, Charles, I didn't know you had it in you!' Everybody was talking about that at halftime."
That was a one-game adjustment at center. Bulldog blocking has had to adapt to a full-season change at right guard though, after starter Justin Malone was lost during the opening game. This already was the one spot among the starting quintet shuffled from 2012 when Tobias Smith opted not to risk a sixth season. Fortunately for State's season Ben Beckwith, the former walk-on who earned his grant the hard way, has stepped in beside Day and the offense resumed operating.
"Everyone is totally experienced, everyone knows what to do," Day said. Even and maybe especially this week, since one mark of a proven program is staying with what works year after year after year. And LSU has assuredly found a winning formula, said Day.
"Comes to the LSU defense, they've been running the same stuff since I've been here as a freshman. So we all know what they're going to do."
The Bulldogs are back on the practice fields this afternoon, with coordinators to meet with media following the session.