Moving on: Bulldogs faced with putting loss to Tide in past quickly

MSU's Aeris Williams (22) celebrates with teammates.
Staff Writer

There are losses, then there are the gut-wrenching, heartbreaking losses like the one Mississippi State suffered on Saturday night when the Bulldogs fell 31-24 to Alabama.

Having not defeated the Crimson Tide since 2007, MSU looked poised to finally once again topple Alabama as State sported a 24-17 lead early in the fourth quarter, then it all fell apart.

The Crimson Tide, as they’ve done so many times before against the Bulldogs and others, found a way to survive. MSU, which actually moved up to 17th in the Associated Press poll and stand 19th in the Amway Coaches list, is now left to pick up the pieces with two regular season games and a bowl game still left on the schedule.

“This is a true test of your character,” MSU offensive lineman Martinas Rankin said after Saturday’s loss. “If you lose a fight like this, you have to find it deep inside to keep fighting and keep pushing and persevere through the tough times.”

Every player is different when it comes to putting tough losses in the past. Some like Rankin, openly admit it’s a challenge to get over such an agonizing defeat. Others, like MSU quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, emphasized it wasn’t how MSU lost that got to him. It was simply the fact the Bulldogs lost period.

“We lost and that’s the reality of it,” Fitzgerald said. “It doesn’t matter who you lost to. It doesn’t matter how much you lose by or anything like that. We lost a football game we feel like we should have won. I feel like we could have won, so I’m disappointed and sad, but you can’t lean on it too much. You have to keep moving forward.”

In the moments following Saturday’s defeat, Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen seemed to be in the same state of mind as his signal caller. Mullen’s body language told the story of a man who was frustrated after coming so close, yet finishing so far from toppling the Tide.

Like Fitzgerald though, Mullen’s thoughts seemed to already be shifting towards what comes next.

“Every loss is tough,” Mullen said. “We’re here to win and we love winning. Our guys come here to win. That’s the type of program we have, so every loss is tough, but this is the game of football. You lose sometimes. You wake up the next day and feel awful, then you get back to work and try to find a way to win the next week. It’s the same as if we won. You go to (the Alabama) locker room (after Saturday’s game) and they (felt) great, but they have to get ready to go play another game (this) week.”

There’s no exact formula when it comes to dealing with the aftermath of such a tough defeat. Some rely on reflection and figuring out what could have been done better. Still others prefer to forget the past and move forward. The immediate future for the Bulldogs is a Saturday date in Fayetteville, Arkansas, against the Arkansas Razorbacks. The 11 a.m. kickoff will be televised by CBS.

Maybe the best strategy of all is just plain, old perspective. Mississippi State lost a tough game last Saturday, but Mullen knows it’s not the end of the world.

“(Saturday was) Veteran’s Day and (the Alabama game was) just a game of football,” Mullen said. “There are a lot of people in the world whose losses are a lot worse than this.”