Smith column: Mullen magic working again in year No. 2
Finding a way to win.
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That appears to be the formula for coach Dan Mullen.
It doesn't always look pretty, but the Mississippi State Bulldogs have made enough plays in six games this season to get a victory.
With Saturday night's 29-24 win against the UAB Blazers, the Bulldogs became bowl eligible for the first time since 2007.
Once again, Mullen has experienced success in the second year in a program.
Consider season No. 2 at his other stops.
While the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at the University of Florida, Mullen helped the Gators improve from an 8-3 record in 2005 to 13-1 and national champions in 2006.
In 2003, Utah was already pretty good at 10-2 as Mullen was beginning his tenure as an assistant coach there, but in 2004, the Utes were undefeated at 12-0.
Bowling Green went from 8-3 in 2001 to 9-3 in 2002 when Mullen was in his second year on the staff.
Mullen was an assistant at Notre Dame when the Fighting Irish improved from 5-7 in 1999 to 9-3 in 2000.
Also, when he was at Wagner College, Mullen saw the program go from 6-5 in 1994 to 8-2 in 1995.
Those are some pretty dramatic improvements.
Mullen is on the way from turning another 5-7 team the year before into a real special season at MSU.
For the time being, it appears the Bulldogs are content to generate what offense they can and try to play solid defense.
The play calling on offense can be questioned at times and the defense doesn't always shut down an opponent, but MSU is doing enough right now to get the job done.
The Bulldogs can let out a sigh of relief after squeaking by the Blazers because the team from Conference USA took another Southeastern Conference squad right down to the wire.
Many coaches use the phrase "taking one game at a time" to describe what their teams need to do in order to experience a good run and Mullen has used it a time or two.
Maybe there's something to it, but the MSU players are picking up on something and making it work in year two of the Mullen era.
Danny P. Smith is sports editor and columnist for the Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily News or its staff.