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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Mullen, MSU become victims of high expectations

The Mississippi State football team has played four games so far this year. Four. Why might this number be significant? Well, it may have something to do with the fact a portion of State’s fanbase seems ready to hurl their bodies off the top of Davis Wade Stadium.
Why would a fanbase that spent all summer hyping up its beloved Bulldogs be so down on the very team they had all but immortalized on message boards and sports radio shows before they had even played a game? It is simple: fans are often unrealistic.
From Pullman, Wash. to Miami, Fla., college football fans spend all spring and summer analyzing practice reports, rosters and recent football signing classes in the hope this will be the year their alma maters’ football teams will reach new heights and deliver a long-awaited national or conference championship, bowl berth or, in the case of some lowly programs, a victory over a hated rival. It is what makes college football so great, and it is why “wait ‘til next year” is the most popular phrase in collegiate athletics.
I say this for a reason. As a State fan, I understand the disappointment that comes with a 2-2 start. This was supposed to be MSU’s year. The prevailing thought was 2011 would be the year in which the sporting gods shined their light upon Starkville and all the Southeast would be forced to watch in awe as the Bulldogs of MSU played the role of the German Blitzkrieg to the rest of the SEC’s Polish cavalry.
However, lost amidst the talk of Egg Bowl whippings, SEC West titles and trips to the “promised land” (in the South, the promised land is always the SEC Championship Game and/or the Sugar Bowl) was the possibility that the Bulldogs had some rather large holes that had to be filled by young or inexperienced players.
Gone are Derek Sherrod and J.C. Brigone. Gone are Emmanuel Gatling, Chris White and K.J. Wright. Pernell McPhee? He, along with Ole Miss’s landshark symbol, is now in Baltimore. In short, the Bulldogs did not lose a ton of starters, but they did lose players who are not easily replaced. As if this were not  bad enough, State also had Jonathan McKenzie and Jeff Howie leave the team, Nick Bell pass away, Dennis Thames be dismissed and James Carmon move from defensive tackle to offensive tackle.
For a program that has yet to  reach the point where it can simply plug in another quality player at any position like LSU or Alabama can, losing these type of players results in young and/or inexperienced players being forced to start or provide depth earlier than they may be ready to. This is why State has struggled along the offensive and defensive lines at times this season.
If you expected freshmen to play at the same level as current NFL players McPhee, Wright, Sherrod and etc., then you were being unfair to MSU head coach Dan Mullen, the players and yourself. This is a team that lacks experienced depth at linebacker and along the offensive and defensive lines. There have been frustrating moments this year and there will be more to come, but the good thing about young players is that they get better as the season progresses.
Besides, are things really that bad? State lost on the road to Auburn by a matter of inches, suffered a tough home loss to the best team in the nation and won in overtime against a Louisiana Tech team that will annoy people all year. I’m generally accused of being overly cynical, but it would take someone far more pessimistic than I to believe there are not plenty of winnable games left on the schedule, starting with this weekend’s game against Georgia.
There is more excitement on State’s campus than at any time I can remember. It would be a shame to let people’s unrealistic expectations for this year’s team ruin a football season that still bears plenty of promise.

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Mullen, MSU become victims of high expectations