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SMITH COLUMN: Letdown not what Bulldogs need this week

September 11, 2012


There's one word that the Mississippi State Bulldogs don't want to have anything to do with this week – letdown.

After defeating the Auburn Tigers 28-10 in its Southeastern Conference opener, it will be easy for overconfidence to set in at MSU. That doesn't need to happen.

The Bulldogs can enjoy beating the Tigers from the Plains, but need to remember what it took to achieve the big victory.

MSU head coach Dan Mullen said it will be important how his team handles the "adversity of success" with the first road game of the season at Troy on Saturday.

"This is new territory for our guys and we haven't been in this position," Mullen said during his Monday press conference.

This is the first 2-0 start for the Bulldogs under Mullen and can make it 3-0 granted they take the Trojans seriously.

Mullen said a sweet moment of victory can turn sour really quick if MSU doesn't take care of business this week in Troy, Ala.

"You can all of a sudden lose a little bit of focus," Mullen said. "If you are still smiling about Saturday's game and what a big win it is, you can lose a little bit of work. We can't afford to lose a work day in season because the games come on you so fast."

The Bulldogs can bet that the Trojans aren't going to be shaking in their shoes when hosting a team from the mighty Southeastern Conference. Troy coach Larry Blakeney will put a plan in place and knows how to beat MSU. He has done it before.

For those of you who remember, the Trojans came to Starkville in 2001 and dominated the Bulldogs 21-9. That was the game where the stadium had to be evacuated because of a tornado warning.

The two teams met again the next season and MSU was able to squeak out an 11-8 victory, but it took six interceptions to do it.

This will be the first time the Bulldogs have ever visited Troy, but Mullen anticipates an energized crowd packed into a 30,000-seat Veterans Stadium.

"I've learned early in my career not to take those games for granted," Mullen said. "I was at Bowling Green and we played Northern Illinois. We were ranked and had never heard a lot of crowd noise and a big crowd there before. They sold it out and handed thunder sticks out to the crowd. It was deafening because we had about six false starts. We didn't practice with the crowd noise all week and got caught off guard. No matter what stadium you are going in, you are preparing for a very hostile environment."

There are big-time programs that never expect a lesser-known opponent to pull off a win against it.

How many called the upset last Saturday night when Louisiana-Monroe knocked off Arkansas 34-31 in overtime? After winning against Jacksonville State 49-24 to open the season, the Razorbacks were probably pretty confident that success would continue into week two in Little Rock, Ark. Obviously, it didn't and now Arkansas is faced with having to bounce back against Alabama.

That turn of events just gives Mullen just one more example to give MSU's players of what can happen if there's no focus or desire coming off the Auburn victory.

It will be very surprising if the Bulldogs aren't ready for the Trojans.

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.

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