A simple question that is very difficult to answer. I see all the pieces that you require to win, but for some reason the pieces don't seem to be fitting the puzzle. I see a team that works hard in practice. I see talented players. I see assistant coaches who are very hardworking. I see one of the winningest coaches in NCAA football guiding the team. But for some reason it doesn't add up to a team that wins on the field. After two losing seasons and losses in its first two games of this season, what I see is a program that is searching for answers; answers that, so far, don't seem to be answerable.
Although I'm not big on all the sayings that you hear from coaches, I'm starting to think there really is something called knowing how to win. I used to think that sayings like that were nothing more than coachspeak for not winning. But I'm not so sure now if that is just a saying or, in fact, a truism.
If it is a truism, what does this team have to do to get that magical formula that the winning teams seem to have? Do they continue to work hard and it will come or is it just a matter of having the ball bounce their way and they will start winning? No doubt that it will probably require a hefty dose of both.
If you want to see an example of what I mean by the above paragraph, look at this year's Auburn team. They couldn't score a touchdown in their first two games and then scored 45 points against what appears to be a solid Vanderbilt team. While I realize the first two teams they played are better than Vanderbilt, during those games they looked like a team that was in disarray and overhyped. Then, during Saturday's game against Vanderbilt, after a dismal first quarter, they started seeing the ball bounce their way and penalties go their way. From that point on, they appeared to become the team that was being hyped in the preseason as the team to beat in the SEC.
Can something similar happen to this MSU team? All the ingredients look to be there. The coaches and players just need to figure out how to put them all together so that they can win a game.
Does this team have the heart to come back and play hard after suffering two close losses?
I see two possible answers to this question. Against a good Oregon team, I saw a team that didn't quit. Down 28-0 after the first quarter, they went to work and just came up short. Against a less talented and smaller Tulane team, I saw a 14-point late fourth quarter lead turn into a 3-point loss.
At the end of the Oregon game the players and coaches were optimistic about what they saw during the game. There was confidence in their voices and faces. After the Tulane game, I saw guys that were so devastated some didn't - or wouldn't - speak to the media. I also heard and saw the hurt in the voices and faces of the players who did speak to the media.
Although I write this column with a maroon perspective, I believe that a combination of that confidence and hurt will translate into a team that will come out and work hard in practice and play well against Houston.
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.