A rebuilding year can be frustrating for all.
Head coaches, players and fans start to lose patience when things don’t go their way. Losses sometimes mount, but sometimes teams come together in times like those.
That is what Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen is hoping for the Bulldogs down the stretch. MSU suffered another loss on the road Friday night, 28-21, at BYU in double overtime. It was a game full of what ifs, but Mullen is again ready to get back to work for an even tougher schedule the rest of the way.
“I see guys learning to play hard every single week. I see guys make some great plays and then some bad plays,” Mullen said. “When you face adversity, it tests your character but can really pull a team together. Hopefully that happens for us on the practice field this week.”
MSU (2-4, 1-2) is set for a 6 p.m. game on Saturday at Kentucky (3-3, 2-2), and it’s a matchup that both teams are plenty familiar with.
Since Mullen took over in Starkville in 2009, the Bulldogs have not lost to the Wildcats with the eighth-year head coach going 7-0 in the series. That doesn’t mean that the series hasn’t been challenging as MSU has seen six of the seven games within 14 points.
“It’s a team that we’re very familiar with, that we play every single year. There’s always been really close games with them that seem to come down the wire,” Mullen said. “They’ve found a way to win close games this year. We’re going to have to come out and make plays.”
The Wildcats are coming off of a bye week after beating Vanderbilt 20-13 two years ago. They lost ball games to Southern Miss, Florida and Alabama in the early going.
Mullen is proud of the fight that quarterback Nick Fitzgerald continues to show in his first season as a starter. The sophomore signal caller has been up and down running the offense but has still managed big plays and has 1,429 yards of total offense with 10 touchdowns.
The BYU game was no different as Fitzgerald showed flashes with two rushing touchdowns and 214 yards and a score through the air.
There were high passes and a couple of bad reads from Mullen’s view, but he also saw some spectacular plays along the way like long 3rd down conversions and some precision passes in the clutch. Now, Mullen wants Fitzgerald to continuously make the unspectacular play.
“One of the things you have to be patient with is the guy that he was replacing from last year was pretty darn good,” Mullen said. “You watch Nick on 3rd and 18 scramble and get the first down, break two tackles and dive for the touchdown in overtime, you watch him make 4th down throws and some spectacular plays. Consistency comes with time.
“He makes some really big-time plays. He makes some head scratchers. We’ve got to make sure we’re trying not to make it too complicated for him.”
Mullen detailed ways that Fitzgerald can improve his consistency including the way he throws certain passes and going through his progressions making the right decision. The coach said experience will take care of all of that.
“The more reps he gets, the more accurate he’ll be,” Mullen said. “He’s got to work his tail off in his development and we’ve got to work hard to make sure he has success in that development.”
Bulldogs questionable to return Saturday
Senior safety Kivon Coman and senior running back Brandon Holloway missed the Bulldogs’ road trip to Provo, Utah with unspecified injuries. Mullen said that he didn’t feel confident in either playing again on Saturday but they would be evaluated throughout the week.
Add sophomore offensive guard Deion Calhoun to that list this week. One of the Bulldogs' constants in the middle of the offensive line, Calhoun sprained his ankle midway through the ball game against BYU and never returned to the game.
Who: Mississippi State vs. Kentucky
When: 6:30 p.m., Saturday
Where: Lexington, Ky.
TV: SEC Network