STARKVILLE, Miss. - A combination of practicing in oven-like conditions, the added weight of shoulder pads which elicited minor contact, and the bumps, bruises, strains and sprains that come with a third-straight day of pre-season practice, left Mississippi State's football squad with its first disappointing session of August.
"Sun one, Bulldogs zero," pronounced a somewhat giddy head football coach Sylvester Croom following the two hour, 20-minute workout. Croom's attitude belied his concern, but the results of Friday's practice were not unexpected by the Bulldog head man.
"It was a perfect day to develop some mental toughness," Croom said. "And we showed that we're not that close. We've got to be able to deal with adversity. Then we'll be a good football team.
"We were tired and we had too many mental errors," Croom continued. "I think this was our first day with pre-snap penalties since before spring. This was the ultimate test, and we've got to be able to do it when it's hot. I hope it's hot tomorrow."
State practices for a fourth-straight day Saturday before taking Sunday off, and Friday's setback did not deter the coach.
"We'll start all over again tomorrow," Croom said. "We've got a lot of work to do and close is not good enough. We lost four games last year by a field goal. That might be the difference of six inches. That's what we're talking about.
"We'll be a physical football team," Croom said, "we'll hit people. I know that. But we've got to be able to execute when things get tough."
The injury chart lost one from its list when fullback Jeremy Jones graduated from the limited-yellow jersey, but gained one when junior defensive end Tim Bailey joined the red-cross brigade with a groin pull.
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State worked just short of two hours Saturday, their fourth-straight practice to open the 2007 pre-season, and Bulldog head coach Sylvester Croom found more to his liking than just one day earlier.
"I thought we worked well," Croom said. "We had two offside penalties and three fumbles, and that's not good, but I liked the contact. We were a lot smarter about our contact today."
Croom specifically praised the work of his starting defensive ends, seniors Titus Brown (Tuscaloosa, Ala.) and Avery Hannibal (LaGrange, Ga.), and quarterback Michael Henig (Montgomery, Ala.), who he said "continues to throw the ball well." The head coach also took time to mention his receiving corps for their work on the other end of those aerials.
The State coaching staff has been working some younger players into the regular rotation of units on both sides of the ball with an eye toward developing some of the yearlings for depth purposes. Croom cited the work of Derek Sherrod (Columbus, Miss.), and running backs Robert Elliott (Okolona, Miss.) and Marcus Green (Scooba, Miss.), on the offensive side of the ball. Defensively, tackle Lamarcus Williams (Bastrop, La.), and backs Zach Smith (Altoona, Ala.) and Wade Bonner (Mason, Tenn.), have worked with the first and second units, respectively.
"We're trying to get them ready for LSU," Croom said. "But we have no preconceived notions on redshirting. We go day to day and see where it goes. It's great to have competition. Hey, if you have a bad day, someone may move up and pass you."
The Bulldogs do not practice Sunday. Instead, the team has the opportunity to visit a local church as a group. They will be back on the practice field Monday late afternoon.