By LEE ADAMS
Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen pointed to lack of fundamental play a reason for the recent troubles of not winning a game.
The Bulldogs dropped their third game this season in Athens on Saturday to Georgia by the score of 24-10.
Despite a good defensive performance in the second half, MSU was unable to get its offense going and had a lot of what Mullen called “fundamental” mistakes that need to be addressed before the next game.
“We have some fundamental things we have to make sure we improve,” said Mullen. “We’re going to get all that fixed up, we’re going to coach it and get our guys cleaned up and playing sharper and crisper and executing at a higher level. We’re going to make sure we put our guys in the best position to win football games.”
Putting his guys in position to win games seems to be the key to the Bulldogs success but Mullen has to make sure he’s not putting too much on his young guys.
“We have to tweak and make sure that we are putting guys in a position to be successful,” said Mullen. “We have to evaluate some of the younger guys that we’re playing and we have to tweak around their strengths to make sure we’re not asking them to do things they’re not ready to do yet on the field.”
Even though Mullen plans to do a lot of tweaking, he has no plans of changing what the team is fundamentally about.
A part of the MSU offense that has seemed to take the biggest beating so far this season is the offensive line. Due to numerous injuries, Mullen has been forced to try guys at different positions and switch them in the middle of the game at times. He is always looking for the right combination of players and after Saturday, he hasn’t found the right combo that he was excited about before the injuries.
“We’re going to continue to evaluate that,” said Mullen. “Going into the season, we felt really good about our one offensive line. From day one we said, we put our ones out there on the field, we feel pretty good, but we get young really fast after that. We have to make sure we have the best five guys on the field and we are putting those five guys in position to do what they do well.”
Finding those “best five guys” is changing every week as Mullen is still finding out what the players are capable of.
“It’s still a learning curve for us,” said Mullen. “A lot of these guys and a lot of their backups, this is their first time ever being on the field in game situations, so we’re still learning what their strengths and weaknesses are in live game situations.”
With the Bulldogs sitting at 2-3 overall and 0-3 in Southeastern Conference play, it would be easy for people to throw out hopes of another January 1 bowl game, but that’s not the case with the third-year head coach.
“January 1 bowl game is still a goal,” said Mullen. “If we win out, we’re still going to go to a January 1 bowl game, I’d imagine. We were 8-4 last year and played in a January bowl game, so I’d imagine at 9-3 you still would and that’s really the goal right now, what bowl game are we going to get to?”
MSU’s original goal for this season and every season under Mullen is to win the SEC West, but realistically that goal is unachievable in 2011.
“If we win out, watching other teams play in the West right now, we would be a really long shot to making it to Atlanta,” said Mullen. “It’s hard to imagine some of the teams in the West losing three to four games.”
The Bulldogs have several goals for the rest of the season including winning the rest of their games and of course making that Jan. 1 bowl game. Making it to a bowl game is key to Mullen as he uses it to gauge the success of the season.
“For the development of the program and for us to continue going, we have to get to a bowl game,” said Mullen. “The higher the bowl game, the greater the reward, the greater the season it was.”
The first team standing in front of State’s new goals is UAB. The Blazers gave MSU a run for their money during homecoming last season, but the Bulldogs were able to pick up the 29-24 win. Despite UAB being 0-4, Mullen isn’t going to take them lightly and he knows his players will do the same.
“We played them last year, so I know just how good of a football team they are,” said Mullen. “After our game with them last year, there’s not a whole lot we have to preach to our kids about what type of team they are. That’s a benefit of having played them last year, is our kids know what to expect.”