Steve Robertson - Genespage.com

Bulldog leader Fred Ross reports it is time for the Mississippi State leadership to stand up and be counted.

Mississippi State is looking to bounce back after a shocking loss to South Alabama in the season opener last weekend. The Bulldogs have spent the last few days figuring out what went wrong and how to fix it as they prepare for SEC play and South Carolina this Saturday.

Fred Ross led the Bulldogs with six catches last Saturday, but the senior wide out was limited to just 34 yards. On the ground, Ross made a huge play with a 46 yard end around that had the fans at Davis Wade Stadium on their feet. Ross and the rest of the Bulldogs will look for more explosive plays this week as they look to regroup from last week's disappointing result.

"It's been tough in practice, because (Coach Dan) Mullen has been pretty hard on us," Ross said. I think that's what we need. We have a lot of young guys on the team. We just have to re-focus and worry about South Carolina."

While some blood, sweat and tears are likely a fitting penance for an upset loss at home, Ross believes the renewed sense of commitment and sacrifice is what the team needed after this past weekend's result. 

"I think this is best for the team," Ross said. "Guys are going harder in practice. Guys know what (their) job is and they know how to do it and why they have to do it."

Many Bulldog players are making the transition from role players to regular contributors. Those same veteran Dawgs are having to show some young pups the ropes including what it takes to finish out a college football game.

"I feel like we didn't bring that intensity," Ross said of the season opening loss. "It showed. Now I think with practice that everyone is locked in. We know we can't let up any bit in the game. We have to finish all four quarters."

As a senior, Ross understands that younger players are going to seek his counsel and follow his lead in good times and bad. Now that adversity has arrived, Ross wants the younger players to see him as a source of strength.

"I want them to see someone who is resilient," Ross said. "I know for myself at some point in that game I was kind of out there. I wasn't bringing enough intensity to the game. I think I have to be more of a vocal leader. I have to say some stuff. When I see someone's head down, I have to say something. I can't let that happen anymore."

The Bulldogs got their hands on 20 of 28 Damian Williams' passes. The Bulldog quarterback battle continues, but Ross believes that Mississippi State can win with Williams under center.

"Damian played his heart out,' Ross said. "He put us in a great situation to win. We just came up short and like I said, I think that starts with me. I have to be more of a vocal leader. 

"If it's me taking a bubble and making one person miss, then I have to do that. That is something I didn't do Saturday and that cost us. There was a bubble that I caught, There were two guys right there and I cut back in and I got tackled. I expect for myself to make both of those guys miss. I know that's sort of a tough thing to do, but I expect that out of myself. I am supposed to make those two guys miss and take that to the house."

Ross has been a part of some great Bulldog teams that have enjoyed the highest of highs including a number one ranking. An upset loss in the non-conference portion of the regular season slate is a new experience for these veteran Dawgs.

"It's tough now, because you go back and watch the film and it's something so little like someone going the wrong way on the line and one guy coming through and it's blowing up the whole play," Ross explained. "I think we have to fix that in practice and we are taking steps in the right direction."

While the ball game's final play, a missed field goal from Westin Graves, is the lasting image of the shocking defeat, Ross is quick to remind that the loss hinged on more than just one play.

"He missed a field goal, but there were guys out there who missed blocks, missed tackles, dropped passes and missed throws," Ross shared. "I don't put that on Graves. We shouldn't have been in that situation at all for him to have to come in and kick that field goal. I think Graves is still holding his head up and we expect him to make the rest. "

The Bulldogs are back in action at home this weekend as they host South Carolina (1-0) in a prime time affair with kickoff set for 6 PM. The Gamecocks opened their season with a road win in Nashville over Vanderbilt last Thursday. 


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