Mississippi State defensive lineman Shane McCardell (96) assists on a tackle during last year's meeting against LSU. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
The games between Mississippi State and LSU have become more competitive since Dan Mullen took over as head coach of the Bulldogs.
It wasn't much that way at all prior to Mullen's arrival in Starkville. MSU made it close in 2008, but were beaten 34-24 by LSU in Sylvester Croom's final season as coach. The Bulldogs were soundly defeated 45-0 (2007), 47-17 (2006), 37-7 (2005), 51-0 (2004), and 41-6 (2003).
Outside of a 29-7 loss in Baton Rouge during the 2010 season, MSU fell to the Tigers 30-26 (2009) and 19-6 (2011) under Mullen's leadership.
In Mullen's mind, close is not good enough.
"We still haven't closed the gap where I want and that's come up with a win," Mullen said during Wednesday's Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference. "We still have to take that next step to push us over the top and get a win over LSU."
Winning is something the Bulldogs haven't done against LSU since 1999 when they knocked off the Tigers 17-16 in Starkville. LSU has won 19 of the last 20 games in the series.
"In this league, everyone knows that LSU has a full load of talent from top to bottom," Mullen said. "We have some pretty good talent here and our kids play hard. If you play hard, you have an opportunity to win games. We've done that over the last couple of years (against LSU) even though we haven't come out on top."
Mullen said LSU does a good job of keeping the best talent in Louisiana at home and he shares that philosophy on recruiting.
"That's a big benchmark of how you build a program," Mullen said. "We try to do the same in Mississippi. You are going to have a bunch of guys from out of state and you go nationally to recruit some guys, but you want to make sure your local guys stay at home and that's one thing I did learn (at Florida) and wanted to be similar in that way."
Too close to call
Mullen was asked what he thought about Saturday's matchup between Alabama and Texas A&M, the last two opponents for the Bulldogs.
He didn't predict a winner, but gave his thoughts about why it could be a competitive game.
"(They are) two very good teams that go about things differently, but they both play hard so I think it will be a good game," Mullen said.
during UK change
Joker Phillips said just because he was dismissed as the head coach at Kentucky, it doesn't mean the learning stops.
It appears Phillips will be allowed to finish the season with the Wildcats and he wants to take advantage of every opportunity.
"It's a great time for us to critique," Phillips said. "Every opportunity I get, I want to teach. I've told the team that you are measured on results in the class room, the football field and as a coach in wins and losses. I also talked with them about how tough change can be, but it always, not sometimes, always works out for the best for everybody."
Kentucky entered this week's open date with records of 1-9 overall and 0-7 in the SEC.
The Wildcats host Samford on Nov. 17 before closing the season at Tennessee on Nov. 24.
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