Mississippi State

Mississippi State, Mullen not overlooking Arkansas

Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald (7) runs for a first down past Massachusetts linebacker Jarell Addo (26). Mississippi State plays Arkansas Saturday.
Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald (7) runs for a first down past Massachusetts linebacker Jarell Addo (26). Mississippi State plays Arkansas Saturday. Associated Press

Cell phone lights illuminated the monstrous Davis Wade Stadium crowd last week as Journey’s hit “Don’t Stop Believing” led Mississippi State into the fourth quarter with a lead over Alabama.

Bulldog fans felt it was 10 years of futility against the mighty Crimson Tide just 15 minutes away from being vanquished. Then that was all gone.

Alabama erased a touchdown disadvantage in the fourth and ripped the heart out of Davis Wade Stadium and its fans on the way to a 31-24 victory, reaching No. 1 in the Playoff rankings. Heartache and frustration could be seen on Dan Mullen’s face postgame as he felt his program was so close to getting over the hump.

”I think we’re getting there. I came here almost nine years ago now to build a team that’s going to compete for championships,” Mullen said. “I think we’ve taken step one of being a consistent winner, of going to bowl games. I think we flirted with it a couple of years ago. I think we’re trying to get closer to be a team right now that can go compete for that championship. We want to be a team that does that consistently.”

The step this week is putting the Alabama loss in the rear view mirror and getting a road win. Arkansas (4-6) is on the docket- a team that has been riddled with injuries. The Razorbacks fired Athletics Director Jeff Long and coach Bret Bielema could be next.

Losing to the Razorbacks would be a step back. That’s why quarterback Nick Fitzgerald and company are moving past the devastating loss to Alabama.

“You know, you can’t really dwell over one game,” Fitzgerald said. “So like I said after the game we’ll suffer that night but Sunday wake up and start moving forward and looking to the next game. No one is crying. No one is sitting there woe is us. We know we have two more solid games left that we have to win to make sure we’re getting to a warm bowl. And that’s the only thing on our mind.”

MSU enters the Arkansas contest with one of the SEC’s best rushing offenses. Fitzgerald and running back Aeris Williams are both on the cusp of 1,000-yard seasons with 867 and 873 yards respectively.

Arkansas is among one of the worst rushing defenses in the SEC. On offense, however, they’ve got a healthy senior quarterback returning in Austin Allen.

Mullen cautions that the Razorbacks can still make teams pay. The two teams always played tough battles over the years.

“We’ve been in this position before,” Mullen said. “They’re fighting for bowl eligibility. They’ve got everything on the line to play for. They have their starting quarterback back. This is the first game he’s 100 percent healthy. They’re a different team with him back there.”

GAME PLAN

Who: Mississippi State vs. Arkansas

When: 11 a.m., Saturday

Where: Fayetteville, Ark.

TV: CBS

Radio: WPMO 1580-AM

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