Mississippi State sits at 2-5 and 1-3 in the Southeastern Conference with the meat of the schedule still ahead. What’s next is a Football Championship Subdivision team, but Dan Mullen sees yet another dangerous opponent that can beat his struggling team.
Samford comes to Starkville on homecoming Saturday for a 2:30 kick. Ranked No. 20 in the recent FCS coaches poll, the Bulldogs boast a schedule with just one loss coming to top-five Chattanooga.
“They’re probably one of the best FCS teams in the country,” Mullen said of the Samford Bulldogs. “They’re probably the best (FCS) team that I’ve played in my time here. It’s a great challenge for us.”
For the Bulldogs to get out of their recent funk, Mullen says there’s a pretty simple formula this week before moving in to face a few top-25 opponents at the end of the schedule.
“You’ve got to win. We found a way to lose a game three different ways,” Mullen said. “I’ve never been in a situation in a single season where I’ve lost three games on the final play of the game.”
MSU is coming off its most recent loss, a 40-38 defeat on the road at Kentucky. It was the third time this season where MSU lost with a chance to win on the final play of the game.
After losing on a missed field goal against South Alabama and an incomplete pass in overtime to BYU, Saturday’s loss on a field goal to end regulation was yet another way the Bulldogs found a way to escape a win.
“We’re up and down at times. The whole team is consistently inconsistent right now,” Mullen said. “We ran the ball for a ton of yards the other night. We’re very run efficient at times and other times we aren’t run efficient where we fumble the ball or run the wrong way. That gets frustrating.”
There were some positives to take away in the loss. MSU did rush for 281 yards in the game and saw seven different players carry the ball. One of those was freshmen Nick Gibson who saw his first action as a Bulldog and carried five times for 24 yards.
“He’s very natural, sees things very well and makes very natural cuts. He’s working to be a consistent, every-down player,” Mullen said. “He had a good week of practice last week so we threw him in there and got him a couple of carries. Hopefully we’ll continue to see some improvement on him being an every-down back.”
Williams fine after scary incident
During Westin Graves’ fourth-quarter field goal that gave MSU a 17-12 lead last week, redshirt freshman guard Daryl Williams went down immediately following a collision with a Kentucky player.
The injury delayed the game for several minutes as trainers, coaches and medical personnel attended to the player. After spending the night in the hospital in Lexington, Williams was brought home Sunday with good news as Mullen reported that x-rays were negative.
Director of Football Operations John Clark called Williams mother quickly following the player’s injury and kept the family updated throughout the process.
Williams was alert after the hit and was moving around but was taken off the field on a stretcher for precautionary reasons. Williams is expected to miss this week. There was no official diagnosis given for the injury by MSU or Mullen.
Several players still questionable
MSU was without senior safety Kivon Coman and running back Brandon Holloway for the second-straight week against Kentucky and Mullen said both of those players still haven’t practiced yet.
Neither injury has been specified for the two players but both went down with injuries in the middle of the Auburn game.
The Bulldogs could also be without sophomore guard Deion Calhoun for the second-straight game after he injured an ankle against BYU. In his absence, redshirt freshman Michael Story drew the start last week to some solid results.
“I thought Michael actually handled it fairly well for it being his first start,” Mullen said. “I didn’t see any glaring issues. Sometimes you can tell if there are some guys making mental errors in their first start and I didn’t notice that with him.”
Safety Jamal Peters also was injured on the final drive of the game on a deep ball thrown into the end zone. Mullen labeled it a bone bruise but expects the sophomore to play on Saturday.
Who: Samford at Mississippi State
When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday
TV: SEC Network