Coach Reviews Opening Loss, Previews SEC Season Opener

The best way to ease one opening day’s failure is succeed in another. Mississippi State will try in this weekend’s start of SEC season as South Carolina comes to town (6:00, ESPN2).

Coach Dan Mullen’s Bulldogs need as much of a fresh start as they can get, league or anything. The stunning 21-20 loss to South Alabama was a major first-step stumble by any measure. It certainly puts State (0-1) immediately behind any sort of 2016 curve in such terms as bowl eligibility and even a winning record.

But, according to the coach, his team showed up Monday ready to resume routine. “We had a good, physical practice yesterday. Guys got after it and went back to work.”

The Gamecocks (1-0, 1-0) have had a couple more days to prepare, as well as enjoy opening with a comeback victory at Vanderbilt on Sept. 1. It’s “a huge advantage” Mullen said for this first-year South Carolina staff which is still learning what squad it has. The Bulldog coaches at least have one game to review, and a tense one at that as the Gamecocks had to rally from 10-0 down in the second half to give Will Muschamp his first success.

The programs last met in Columbia in 2013 with South Carolina winning 34-16. Mississippi State has lost the last seven contests dating back to 1999.

As for Bulldog questions, there were very few answers in Tuesday’s presser. Mullen did not name a starting quarterback for game-two, any more than last week’s opener. Nick Fitzgerald did get the first series against South Alabama and one more; then Damian Williams handled all but one snap the rest of the way. Freshman Nick Tiano did not play at all.

After review, “I don’t know if I’d use them any different,” Mullen said. “We’ll see how everybody does in practice this week.”

Nor was there any indications how State will use, or change use of, the running back rotation in this second game. “A lot is going to dictate how the game is going. There’s only one ball and a lot of people we’d like to get it in their hands.”

Two true freshmen played in the opener, WR Jamal Couch and DL Marquiss Spencer. Another could be activated this weekend if DL Jeffrey Simmons’ suspension is completed, which most believe. Mullen would not say yay or nay. As to suspended game-one veterans DL Nick James and WR Malik Dear, the coach said an announcement would be made prior to the game.

During Tuesday’s press conference Mullen also talks about the ‘explosive’ plays he saw and those that should have been for the Bulldog offense; about not creating any turnovers in the first game as well as not turning the ball over; and other missed opportunities that allowed the Jaguars to score arguably the upset of college football’s opening week.


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