MSU looking for signature win vs No. 4 Alabama
Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen has a simple plan to beat No.
4 Alabama on Saturday. The problem is executing it.
”You have to play a flawless game to beat them,” Mullen
The Bulldogs haven’t had many perfect moments this season, much
less entire games, and that’s led to a disappointing season. But
three wins during the past four games – albeit against Kentucky,
Tennessee Martin and Alabama-Birmingham – have Mississippi State
(5-4, 1-4 SEC) hopeful of pulling off the upset when Alabama (8-1,
5-1) comes to Davis Wade Stadium on Saturday.
Alabama has won eight out of past 10 in the series, including
the past three years.
Mullen is still trying to break through with a signature victory
against a Western Division opponent. In his third season, Mullen is
just 2-10 against the West, with both of those victories coming
against rival Ole Miss.
Beating the Tide would certainly qualify as a big win. Alabama’s
won the past two meetings by a combined score of 61-13.
”The last two years we’ve played OK against them,” Mullen
said. ”And then we’ll make some critical errors. When you make
critical errors against great teams you put yourself in a lot of
Mississippi State could be catching Alabama at a good time. The
Tide lost an emotional 9-6 home loss to No. 1 LSU last Saturday in
Tuscaloosa, and the Bulldogs are hoping they can catch Alabama
feeling sorry for itself.
But Alabama defensive lineman Josh Chapman insists that won’t be
the case. The Tide still have an outside shot at playing for the
national title, but can’t afford any more mistakes.
”They’re a great team,” Chapman said. ”Those guys are
physical. One thing I see about our guys is you don’t see a lot of
heads down, hang-dogging around. Those guys see that we’ve got the
Bulldogs to go against. Let’s go out and finish this thing
To make things close, Mississippi State will have to find a way
to stop Alabama running back Trent Richardson, who’s leading the
SEC with 1,078 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns.
Richardson’s powerful 5-foot-11, 220-pound frame has proven a
load to bring down throughout the season, but Mississippi State
defensive end Sean Ferguson said he isn’t worried about the name on
the back of the jersey. The Bulldogs’ defense has been one of the
best in the SEC this season, giving up less than 19 points per
”We study our opponents, but at the end of the day everybody’s
just Xs and Os,” Ferguson said. ”I’ve just got to make sure my
technique is its good as can be. We’ve got a gameplan. We know they
like to run the ball, so we really just want to control where they
want to run.”
Mississippi State’s offense has improved over the past month as
well. After weeks of quarterback controversy, Mullen has settled on
a rotation with senior Chris Relf and sophomore Tyler Russell.
Mullen will switch quarterbacks on different possessions and
sometimes even on different plays during the same possession.
Relf is the better runner while Russell is the more accomplished
passer. Alabama coach Nick Saban said it’s a unique situation when
working on defensive preparation.
That’s another reason why he’s stressed that his players need to
put the LSU loss behind them.
”What our players need to be focused on is the fact that we
have a lot of football left to play,” Saban said. ”It’s most
important to us to play the best football that we can play and take
care of what we can take care of. That’s the one thing that we can
control, and that’s what I’ve tried to emphasize to our players so
that they respond the right way when they play this week.”
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