Blazers Have Been Formidable Foe

Mississippi State will take on University of Alabama at Birmingham this week riding high on the success of last weekend's shutout win of Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles last win came over UAB in the 2013 season finale for both teams. That 62-27 decision ended a 2-10 campaign for the Blazers. New head Bill Clark won his debut in Birmingham over Troy 48-10 and now heads to Starkville for round two.

Clark has Blazer fans excited about the direction of the program after just one week.

Yes, Troy lost a lot of experience on both sides of the football, but the Blazers were one of the nation's most anemic teams in 2013.

UAB did not hold a single opponent under 24 points last season, but were able to hold the pass happy Trojans of Troy to just 10 in the season opener.

Despite what should have been a geographical no brainer over the years, Mississippi State did not play UAB until 2004.

In fact, the Bulldogs and Blazers have only met on the football field five times despite only being separated by some 140 miles.

Mississippi State holds a 4-1 series edge, but most of those victories have been hard fought encounters with the Bulldogs needing some grit and guts to put the Conference USA charter members away late.

The series began in 2004 with a 27-13 UAB win that featured two touchdown connections from Blazer signal caller Darell Hackney and current Atlanta Falcons' star Roddy White.

Kyle York was the Bulldog starter behind center that day in place of an injured Omarr Conner.

A 201 yard rushing effort by rising star Jerious Norwood was essentially wasted as State fell to 1-5 on the campaign.

The Bulldogs would get a measure of revenge in 2006 as Omarr Conner willed the team to an overtime victory that ended when #14 took off from just inside the five yard line and sailed across the goal line.

The drama filled fourth quarter saw State rally from a 7-3 deficit to take a 10-7 lead only to give up the tying score in the final two minutes.

The Bulldog offensive was hurt by a couple of Anthony Dixon fumbles and a failed fourth down conversion that called for Arnill Stallworth to plow ahead into the teeth of the UAB defense.

Despite the setbacks and questionable play calls, the Bulldogs were able to capture win number one on the season in dramatic fashion.

2007 brought the most lopsided win of the series with a 30-13 victory that featured a trio of touchdowns from rising star Anthony Dixon.

While the three score final tally looks impressive in hindsight, it is not indicative of how competitive the contest truly was.

UAB held a 13-9 fourth quarter lead before State surged ahead behind the hard running of Dixon.

The icing on the proverbial cake came when Anthony Johnson picked off a pass and took it back 30 yards for the final Bulldog score of the day.

The Dan Mullen era brought a lot of change to Mississippi State football, especially success in the non-conference schedule.

Mullen is 7-1 against Conference-USA with the lone loss coming in season one, a 2009 loss at home to Houston.

The seven wins for Mullen have for the most part been one sided affairs that allow for playing time for just about everyone on the dress list.

The 2010 non-conference slate featured three Conference-USA opponents, Memphis, Houston and UAB.

State dispatched of Memphis 49-7 in the season opener and then knocked off Houston on the road 47-24 before taking on UAB.

The streaking Bulldogs entered the game on a four game winning streak fresh off of a win over Florida in the swamp at Gainesville.

The emotional Dogs came out flat and UAB took full advantage thanks in large part to the play of Starkville High product Patrick Shed.

Shed was the go to guy for UAB most of the night and the Bulldog defense had some trouble with his inspired effort to look good before the hometown crowd.

The back and forth affair was still in doubt when Michael Carr jarred the ball loose from Shed on a kick off return that Nickoe Whitley covered essentially sealing the deal, 29-24.

With the win, State knew they were bowl eligible for the first time in the Dan Mullen era.

In 2011, the Bulldogs returned the trip to Legion Field for what was one of the most frustrating games of the season.

The 0-5 Blazers lead State 3-0 at the half as Chris Relf and the Mississippi State offense struggled to get on track.

Tyler Russell took over in the second half throwing three touchdown passes in a 21-3 victory.

Mississippi State will enter this weekend's match-up against the Blazers with a four game winning streak in the series, but none of those wins have come easy.

What is interesting to note is that UAB may not have the benefit of surprise this time around.

The two wins under Mullen have come in mid-season affairs in potential trap games.

In 2011, UAB arrived as the homecoming opponent following road wins at Houston and Florida.

What may be lost to memory is that Houston was billed as a BCS buster in the pre-season before future record holder Case Keenum was lost for the season as a result of an injury during a loss to UCLA.

Another injury on the depth chart at quarterback forced then coach Kevin Sumlin to play a pair of freshmen in the coming weeks, including Terrance Broadway who is now the starter under center at Louisiana-Lafayette.

The Bulldogs were able to feast on the young quarterbacks during the visit to Robertson Stadium.

The next week, Mullen was able to generate just enough offense to defeat friend and former boss Urban Meyer 10-7 in a bit of a homecoming for Mullen who led the Gator offense to two national titles.

After those two road wins, the Bulldogs may have had a touch of over confidence, but there may not have been much else left in the tank.

With all of that said, State found a way to win when they did not play well.

The 2011, contest was sandwiched between a road trip to Georgia and a home date with South Carolina.

Needless to say, the State offense was struggling for a break through.

Incumbent starter Chris Relf fought the injury bug all season after taking on Auburn and LSU in under a week's time.

Russell was thrust into action and it took a while for the play calling and sophomore to both settle.

2014, finds the Bulldogs healthy and hungry.

With a resounding win last week to give the Bulldogs a taste of success, there is a measure of humility to go with that as the coaching staff has some teachable moments to address in film study and on the practice field this week.

In the last four games against Conference-USA opponents, MSU is 4-0 and has outscored those teams 173-27.

The Mullen era has shown a maturation in the past few years, but this Saturday may provide further evidence that this brand of Bulldogs is ready to take the next step.

A lopsided win over a traditionally pesky opponent would be a positive affirmation of just how good this team can be.


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