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Monday Morning Coffee Break

<img src="http://www.genespage.com/images/01columnists/gswindoll.jpg" align="left" width="120" height="161"> Mississippi State football and basketball.


With the 41-6 loss to 7th ranked LSU Saturday night, Mississippi State has now lost their 9th straight game, the third longest losing streak in MSU history.

Despite the losing streak, MSU fans have continued to show their support of these players and coaches by attending the first two home games in droves (52,000+ and 45,800+). However, frustration seems to have set in with the most die-hard of the Bulldog loyalists as evidenced by the mass exodus during the LSU loss. Surprisingly, there were few boo birds. That one simple fact almost makes me believe empathy is starting to set in as well.

While I love MSU as much as any other Bulldog fan and feel we should continue to attend games and support this team every way we can, I can understand how those who left felt. It is tough to deal with losing, especially when your expectations have risen so high after the wonderful years from 1997-2000 when MSU went 33-15 overall and 20-12 in the SEC, won a Western Division title, played Tennessee, the eventual national champion, a close game in the SEC Championship Game and went to three bowl games, including the Cotton Bowl, a New Year's Day bowl.

It looked like this was finally MSU's chance to move from being considered one of the SEC cellar dwellers to one of the better programs in the conference.

Instead, what MSU fans got were two three-win seasons and a third season that has started off with a four-game tailspin. Two more losses and this MSU team ties the record for longest losing streak in MSU history, a history that goes all the way back to the year 1895. Hard to believe but true.

It's hard, folks, to deal with that fact, especially when you know there is enough talent - players and coaches - on this team to have won at least two of the first four games.

You want to believe in Coach Sherrill and his staff. You want to believe in the players, especially when you consider you have six former high school Parade All-Americans on the current roster, three on each side of the ball. However, things don't appear to be improving on the field, at least not fast enough to suit most fans. Coach Sherrill and his staff have simplified the defense and moved players around trying to put them in the best position to win. However, nothing seems to be working.

Are there other options that can be used? Coach Sherrill, in his post-game press conference after the LSU loss, seems to think that all the team needs to do is play more as a team. The problem is how do you accomplish that? Is it something that will happen as the players gain experience playing in the new offensive and defensive schemes or is it something else, such as youngsters becoming veterans or the coaches doing a better job?

I wish I had the answer, but I don't. About all I do know is not only are the options running out, but time is running out for this team (and the coaches), especially when you consider after the next two teams that MSU faces (Vanderbilt and Memphis), Auburn, Kentucky, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas and Ole Miss await. Of those six games, four are on the road. Not a pretty picture to say the least.


While MSU football is dealing with tough times, MSU basketball appears to be in solid shape, mainly due to the hard work of current head coach Rick Stansbury and an excellent staff that includes Robert Kirby, Phil Cunningham and Sam Weaver.

I'll go more into the upcoming season during the coming weeks, but here's some food for thought about the many accomplishments of MSU basketball during the Rick Stansbury era.

  • Won more games (100-60 record) than any other coach in Mississippi State history during the first five seasons at the school's basketball helm.
  • Led the Bulldogs to postseason tournament play four times in five seasons to become the first MSU basketball coach in school history to accomplish that feat.
  • In the 35 years prior to Rick Stansbury's arrival as the Bulldogs' head coach in 1998, MSU produced a total of three 20-win seasons - a total that he has already amassed during his first five seasons at the State helm.
  • Guided MSU to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances (2003 and 2002) for only the second time in school history.
  • Paced State to a school-record 27-8 record in 2001-2002 to mark the most wins in a single season in school history.
  • During the 2001-2002 season, had the highest postseason NCAA seeding (#3) in school history.
  • Led MSU to the 2002 SEC Tournament championship.
  • Guided the Bulldogs to back-to-back SEC Tournament championship game appearances (2003 and 2002) for the first time in school history.
  • Only one team (Kentucky at 9-2) has won more SEC Tournament games than MSU (7-4) over the last five years.
  • MSU's seven SEC Tournament wins over the last five years (7-4) match the seven combined SEC Tournament victories (7-19) that the Bulldogs posted collectively the previous 20-year span prior to Stansbury's hiring.
  • The 2002-2003 Bulldogs achieved a No. 7 national ranking in the AP poll to mark MSU's highest AP ranking in 40 years.
  • MSU ranks as the only SEC West team to post winning records each of the last two seasons.
  • Only Kentucky (54) has registered more overall wins than MSU (48) among SEC schools over the past two seasons combined.
  • Led MSU to the Western Division Championship in the 2002-2003 season.
  • His overall record against Ole Miss is 8-3, including 3 wins in the 2003 season.
  • His team's overall record against rivals Ole Miss (8-3), Alabama (7-4) and LSU (7-5) is 22-12.
  • The 2002-2003 Bulldog squad set an all-time, single-season school standard by averaging 9,165 fans per SEC home game.
  • Graduated 13 out of 17 seniors in five years. Two of the four who haven't graduated, Derrick Zimmerman and Michal Ignerski, should graduate within a year.
  • MSU and 2003 NCAA runner-up Kansas were the only two schools to have two players selected in the 2003 NBA Draft (MSU had three if you count high school signee Travis Outlaw).
  • State had a league-high three players earn All-SEC honors last season.
  • Just food for thought as you await basketball season.

    Have a great Bulldog week!

    Gene Swindoll

    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 swindoll@genespage.com.

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