The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

    Building confidence with loss

    In many games over the past few seasons, Mississippi State football has stayed on the figurative front porch. Saturday, they ran with the big dogs.
    The seventh-ranked Georgia Bulldogs (4-0, 2-0) left Scott Field Saturday night with a hard fought 23-10 victory.
    “I’m very proud of our football team for the effort we gave,” MSU head coach Sylvester Croom said. “We battled them from start to finish, but we’ve still got a long way to go. We had a few penalties and a turnover, and I’ve got to get that corrected. That’s on me. But our players are playing with heart and are playing with character, and I’m very proud of them.”
    For the third straight contest this season the MSU offense posted anemic numbers and struggled to sustain drives. However, Croom says that nothing will change with the scheme of the attack, as the West Coast is a proven winner.
    “The offense is not changing, not as long as I’m here,” Croom said. “If anyone has complaints about that, that’s their problem because that’s the offense we are going to run.”
    Junior quarterback Omarr Conner finished the game 19 of 32 for 205 yards, but was sacked four times and limped through most of the second half.
    “Omarr played as hard and showed as much heart as anyone I’ve ever been around,” Croom said. “Our protection was not good, but that was because we couldn’t run the football early. We got in predictable situations where they could tee off and rush the passer.”
    The MSU defense was a definite positive, stifling the Georgia running game and allowing them only 94 total rushing yards in the contest. Georgia has averaged 232 yards per game on the ground in each of its first three contests.
    The home defense also stiffened inside the red zone and in several critical situations, holding the vaunted Georgia offense to three field goals in the second half and only a 33 percent third down success rate for the game.
    “As a defense we are not afraid to go against anyone,” defensive back David Heard said. “I thought we were well conditioned, and I thought we gave it all we had.”
    “The defense was excellent all night long,” Croom said. “But we’ve got to get better offensively. Defensively they didn’t change anything. It was nothing new, nothing we hadn’t worked on. We just didn’t execute very well.”
    The Georgia defense returned the favor, however. After the MSU offense’s field goal drive on its first possession of the game, it would be stymied for most of the rest of the contest, logging only 49 rushing yards, just over 200 yards of total offense, and only 13 first downs for the entire contest.
    “We want to protect and throw the football. It starts with pass protection. It starts with receivers getting open. It starts with making plays when you have the opportunities,” Croom said. “When you do that you can get in a rhythm, and the offense can mix the run and the pass. We didn’t go that tonight.”
    State took a 3-0 lead after a 58-yard drive on their first possession of the game. Georgia would respond, however, with a five-play 80-yard drive of their own, which resulted in a touchdown pass to Thomas Brown.
    The 7-3 standoff would remain intact until midway through the second quarter when Georgia quarterback D.J. Shockley threw his second touchdown pass of the day, this one to Leonard Pope.
    MSU struggled to move the ball in the third quarter, allowing Georgia’s offense the ball for all but four minutes. MSU’s defense held strong though, allowing only two field goals to the visiting Bulldogs.
    The fourth quarter saw a brief resurrection of the offensive ability MSU has flashed on its first drive. With only minutes left in the game, Omarr Conner threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Joey Sanders, cutting the Georgia victory margin as close as it would come.
    Though still a loss, many on the MSU squad drew several positives from the game.
    “I believe the effort is there,” center Chris McNeil said. “But right now we just have so much youth on our team, it’s going to be something that we’ve just got to work through.”

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    Building confidence with loss