The 15th-ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs are ready to put the 41-31 win over Tennessee behind them and get ready for a showdown with the Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee State University.
As they move forward, the Bulldogs carry with them the confidence that come with being undefeated with all their goals intact.
MSU football coach Dan Mullen was asked at his weekly press conference on Monday if the words "national championship" has been brought up to his team.
The focus for the Bulldogs right now is on the Southeastern Conference.
“It’s out there, but to me I’ve done it enough," Mullen said. "We bring up the words ‘SEC championship.’ If we win the SEC West, and we’re fortunate enough, then you have the opportunity to do something like that. I tell the team that in my coaching career I’ve been undefeated once, and we didn’t get the chance to play for the national title. I have two national championship rings, but in my only undefeated season, we didn’t get an opportunity to play for it.”
If State wants to keep those lofty goals alive, it’ll first need to get past a talented MTSU squad. While some are quick to call this game a ‘trap game’ simply because it comes before No.1 Alabama, Mullen was quick to discredit that notion.
“Every game is a trap game," Mullen said. "We have a trap game this week, a trap game last week and it’ll be a trap game next week. Every game is like that. If you don’t bring your focus in college football today, you’re not going to win.”
Smith key to success
The Bulldogs had senior guard Tobias Smith on the field against the Vols and played well enough to help them to the win and pick up SEC Co-Offensive Lineman of the week honors along the way.
“Here’s a guy that didn’t play a whole lot last year," Mullen said. "He missed most of the season, didn’t go through spring, was held out of winter conditioning, minimal in summer conditioning, minimal in training camp and yet still voted a captain by his teammates.
“It shows the respect he has on the team, so him being in the huddle I think uplifts the play of everybody around him.”
no time to contribute
Malcolm Johnson sat the first five games of the 2012 season due to a pectoral injury suffered during the summer.
As a result, he’s been a cheerleader for his teammates on their undefeated run, that is until last Saturday.
The MSU tight end took full advantage of his opportunity against Tennessee with a pair of catches for 34 yards, including the final touchdown of the evening on a 9-yard strike from Tyler Russell. The scoring grab displayed extreme athleticism and that’s something the head coach looks forward to seeing more.
“You expect those things from Malcolm," Mullen said. "He does have such great ball skills and even in practice you see him make those catches. Some of the easier ones, that’s where I get almost more nervous because that’s the focus and getting back in the rhythm.
"With his injury, too, he’s had a lot of time working hands. You can’t have contact, so that Jugs machine was firing up shooting footballs at him since the first day of training camp an awful lot.”