Ross couldn’t help looking over to the most junior member of this press corps, and grinning. Or laughing outright at Cal Coleman, infant son of Starkville Daily News reporter Joel Coleman.
“He’s mad!” Ross cracked up as Coleman Junior stared his way.
Of course no Bulldog, of any age, was madder about Mississippi State’s loss to Auburn than Ross. Because, the senior wide receiver said, “I played terrible. Dropped some passes, dropped some punts. It’s probably the worst game I ever played in my life.”
Where that performance really ranks in any career countdown doesn’t matter as much to Ross today, as does getting back on his normal track. And what a track it is. Mid-way of his final college campaign Ross keeps climbing the State receiving charts.
Going into Friday’s game, he stands third in career catches at 156 and needs only six grabs to tie for that record with David Smith (1968-70). He is just the sixth Bulldog wideout to top 1,900 yards and can jump into the top-five tomorrow with 46 yards. His 15 touchdowns do rank #5.
Oh, and Ross is number-one in the SEC as far as career catches by a sizable margin. So to review his afternoon against Auburn…was a shock to Ross’ system.
“I watched the full game. And I was kind of shocked. It didn’t seem like myself. I don’t know who that was out there on that field Saturday. But I definitely can’t play like that again.”
It truly was an out-of-character show. Not just the drops, but the manner; such as a routine short throw that fifth-year senior Ross made a raw-rookie error by running-before-securing. Each mistake contributed to the next, too.
Same case for those bobbled punts, by a Bulldog given the job for his sure hands and sense of place. These were more surprising than the missed passes in fact.
“The first one I dropped, I didn’t want to fair-catch it and I tried at the last second. And I dropped it. That’s just a mental thing,” Ross said.
“The second one the sun was in my eye but I didn’t want to let it hit the ground and give them good field position. So I took a chance right there and I should have let that ball just bounce, just so I wouldn’t be playing with the possession.”
Which is another way of saying…he was trying too hard. The challenge? As the man said, not to let it happen again.
“I was just frustrated. Things weren’t going my way, and I learned a lot from that game. I’ve got to learn to keep my composure when things aren’t going my way. I kind of lost my composure and played bad. If I want us to win I can’t play like that no more.”
The same holds for an entire Bulldog team which was beaten in every facet and phase. The loss leaves Mississippi State 2-3 and 1-2 SEC. Though they are out of conference play for a week, Brigham Young isn’t any easer sort of matchup. The Cougars (3-3) are coming off two strong offensive showings and victories, and looking to add a SEC scalp to their resume.
Ross was all of six years old the last time these programs crossed paths. Thus there’s no sense of history for his part. No, the only ‘history’ that matters at this moment is putting last Saturday entirely in the past.
“Not beating myself up over a simple drop. I was pressing too much, trying to do too much. That’s really not my game. My game is relaxing and playing football.”
Which is how co-captain Ross wants every Dog to hit Friday’s field. Relaxed and ready to play their football. “Just coming off a loss like that, we need to win,” Ross said.
“We want to win. This team is so hungry to win right now, I think that’s the only thing on everyone’s mind right now.”
Wait, not everyone’s. Young Cal obviously was thinking something else, which had Ross cracking up again.
“The face he just made! Oh, man…”