Mississippi State was picked dead last in the SEC by the media during SEC media days. While some prognosticators had the Bulldogs in a bowl, the margin for error was exceptionally thin. After dropping a game to South Alabama, a contest that every Bulldog expected to win, State has exhausted its' only mulligan.
"We just have to go like we're hungry," Kivon Coman said. "We wasn't hungry enough in the last game and that all starts with me. I take the blame for that, because I am an older guy. This week, we have really gotten back to how Mississippi State plays defense."
Despite pitching a shut out in the first half against South Alabama, the Bulldogs missed some opportunities to make game breaking plays to provide a greater gap on the scoreboard. While some State defenders were in position to make a play, those plays were not successfully executed.
"We were there. We just have to make the play," Coman said. "It all starts in practice. You have to make the plays in practice and that carries over to the game.
"We let our feet off of the gas. We got complacent and we were like this is South Alabama. We got into the name, but they have great players. They came out and they wanted it more than we did."
The Bulldog defensive staff has worked hard to drill down the skills needed to successfully defend the forward pass. While the repetitions prepare players for situations they will see over the course of the game, Coman believes those encounters need desire as well as discipline.
"I just think you have to want it," Coman shared. "You have to see who wants it more. Every ball was there and we were there on coverage. You just have to want it more than they do and on Saturday, I think they wanted it more than we did."
While the sting of last week's shocking setback still lingers over the Mississippi State fan base, Bulldog players have had to push ahead. Coman reports that South Carolina rather than South Alabama is the foe the Bulldogs have their sights set on.
"They have great players. They have great coaches," Coman said of the Gamecocks. "Their offense is very similar to our offense. It's going to be easy to adjust to what they can throw at us."
All reports suggest that Mississippi State has a renewed sense of focus this week in practice. To a man, the Bulldogs report that their preparations have been intense and that Coach Dan Mullen has shown a different level of supervision.
"I have seen a lot more guys actually wanting to be at practice," Coman said. "We came in Monday and everybody was focused. You still have that nasty feeling in your mouth. It carried on in practice Monday and it's carried on everyday since then."
In the Dan Mullen era, the Bulldogs have been able to avoid the true upset loss until this past Saturday. While there have been some close calls, Mississippi State always found a way to hang on. The sting of this one will likely remain fresh for all involved. Coman reports that his concern is more about the team's record rather than his previous opponent.
"To me a loss is a loss, no matter how you lost," Coman said. "I never want to lose a game. That was just another loss to me, so it hurts the same as any other loss."
As a senior, Coman has been a part of some great Bulldog teams. In his final campaign, the Florence, Alabama native wants to put a more polished personal product on the field.
"I need to hold everybody accountable and hold myself accountable," Coman said. "(I need) to bring the young guys up, something that will bring me up. I just have to keep forcing it into young guys like Jay Hughes and Kendrick Market did to me."
Mississippi State will take on South Carolina at 6 PM Saturday night in the SEC opener for the Bulldogs. The Gamecocks secured a season opening win in conference last weekend on the road at Vanderbilt.