No. 23 Mississippi St. takes positives from win

Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen was in a surprisingly good

mood after his defense gave up 572 total yards against Troy.

It’s a lot easier to be pleasant after a win.

The Bulldogs certainly didn’t have their best performance in a

30-24 road victory over the Trojans on Saturday. But it was good

enough to push Mississippi State (3-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference)

into The Associated Press college football poll for the first time

this season.

”Both our staff and our players are a little disappointed with

our performance,” Mullen said on Sunday. ”But to be disappointed

and still come out with a win is a good thing with our

program.”

It’s the first 3-0 start for the Bulldogs since 1999. In his

fourth season at Mississippi State, Mullen has built a consistently

competitive team. The Bulldogs have been ranked for at least part

of the last three seasons.

But the narrow victory over Troy exposed some of the team’s

weaknesses – especially on defense. There will be plenty to fix as

Mississippi State prepares to host FCS-level South Alabama on

Saturday at Davis Wade Stadium.

Mullen said he was pleased to sense a healthy mix of happiness

and disappointment after Saturday’s gritty effort. He said the next

few days in practice will be important as he gauges the team’s

demeanor.

”I want to see how we come back – how we respond,” Mullen

said. ”I want to look in their faces. I have a good feeling with

our guys. They’re not going to be very pleased with their

performance. There are some coaching things to fix. Some of it is

execution on our guys. We had a bunch of missed tackles.”

But there were also plenty of positives. Tyler Russell continues

his impressive junior season, leading the Bulldogs on a pair of

crucial fourth-quarter drives that put the game away. Russell found

Chad Bumphis for a 25-yard touchdown with seven minutes remaining

that gave the Bulldogs a 30-21 lead.

Russell threw for 244 yards, three touchdowns and no

interceptions. He completed just 11 of 26 passes, but Mullen

counted seven dropped passes by receivers.

Mullen said Russell did a good job keeping his composure, even

when good passes fell incomplete because of bad drops. The

consistent quarterback play is something the Bulldogs haven’t

enjoyed much in recent history.

”He continues to stick with his reads,” Mullen said. ”He

continues to throw the ball where it’s supposed to go.”

Bumphis caught six passes for a career-high 180 yards and three

touchdowns. He could have had an even bigger game if it weren’t for

a few dropped passes.

Mullen said Bumphis – a senior who has had an inconsistent

career – did a good job of shaking off early mistakes and coming

through when the Bulldogs needed him in the fourth quarter.

”The biggest thing you see with him is maturity,” Mullen said.

”… He expects when he’s open to make plays. He expects to play

at a top level.”

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