Dogs still looking for first win
By By Richard Dark / EMG staff writer
Sept. 15, 2003
NEW ORLEANS An estimated 9,000 Maroon and White fans made their way down to New Orleans in hopes of seeing the Mississippi State Bulldogs pick up where they left off in the second half against Oregon.
What they got was a 31-28 loss to Tulane in a game the Bulldogs led by two touchdowns late in the game.
Consider a final five minutes that saw MSU not only allow the Wave, a team that was nearly upset last week in City Park by a Division 1-AA school, rip off 17 unanswered points, but also not take care of the football via a rushing attack that had already proven it could not be stopped by its host. MSU did not gain a first down during the final nine minutes of the contest.
To their credit, however, the Bulldogs exited the visitors' locker room in the depths of the Superdome, blaming no one but themselves, and that included the coaching staff. Receiver Justin Jenkins had turned in a huge night, up until he apparently fumbled inside the final minute, with the score knotted at 28 and the Dogs driving for a field goal to win and also to stop the bleeding.
Or was it a fumble? Replays showed the ball was not in his possession for a significant amount of time.
"Actually, I never had the ball. I think it was a bad call, but things happen," said Jenkins. "We came to play and we had a chance to win, but we couldn't pull it out. As a receiver, I am supposed to make those catches when it's time, but I unfortunately I wasn't able to make a play for our team. But we'll be better prepared next week."
They will have to in order to avoid a disastrous 0-3-start heading into SEC play. They will now take their 31 points per game average to face Houston, which held on to defeat Louisiana-Lafayette on the road, 21-14.
Sherrill was looking ahead to Houston and searching for positives.
"There are a lot of people that played well. I think we got some things moving (with the running game)," he said, pointing to the ground game that churned out a total of 225 yards behind Nick Turner and Jerious Norwood, who left with an ankle injury after converting a 2-point run.
In all, the Bulldogs manufactured 471 yards of total offense, good for nearly 7 yards a snap. "This football team is going to get better and better. One way is we've got to be better in the end. We were tired and (Tulane) had some big plays there in the end, but when you are in that situation, you have to control the football.
"When you are playing that type of tempo, you have to be a lot better. You need to shut people down. A lot of it wasn't just mistakes, it was just the fact that a lot of us had never been in that situation."
Yes, There were bright spots. Quarterback Kevin Fant surpassed the 4,000-yard mark in his MSU career. Turner's 155 rushing yards was the most by a State back in a game since the 2000 season. And too, State is a young team, and if they are to go in a positive direction with the talented offense they possess, senior leadership is crucial. But to be sure, losses like these, in they manner in which they were dealt, aren't easy to shrug away.
"We feel really bad that we couldn't put it together for four quarters," Jenkins said. "We feel snakebit, now. No one said anything in the locker room. Yeah, we put points on the board, but at the same time, we didn't put as many as they did and that's what counts when the final bell rings. It's not how you start, it's how you finish. He told us, we fought hard and we have to keep our head up and keep fighting.
At that point, however, the senior who pulled down a career-best nine balls for 164 yards, remembered his role. "As seniors, we have to keep everybody else up, we're 0-2, but we've got 10 more, so what are we going to do about it? Everybody is just looking to the next game. We have regain confidence in ourselves and bounce back," he said.
They also refused to second guess, as well.
"We've got to continue to roll on. I have faith in (Offensive Coordinator Morris Watts)," Turner said, when asked why the Bulldogs chose not to play ball control in an effort to consume clock when they had a 14-point lead midway through the final frame. "He's a smart coach and he knows what he's doing. We just made some mistakes and they (capitalized) on those mistakes. We'll be alright, though I hope."
Turner's final sentiment most assuredly echoes that of any Bulldog fan.