Moving on from Kentucky, MSU focused on first home SEC game

The ultimate goal of a team is not to play well, but to win, which was one focus from Mississippi State University as they prepared to play the University of Florida.

Defensive Coordinator Bob Shoop said he wants to see the team get back to winning football.

“There is a difference between playing well, and playing winning football,” Shoop said. “The object is to play winning football. I think everyone on our staff feels that way. One of the things I love about the culture that Moorhead has brought us: there are no egos.”

One of the things that kept MSU from playing winning football last week were the 16 penalties for 139 yards. Mark McLaurin, a senior safety from Collins, said the team has put last week to bed.

"It’s behind us, we know we have to be focused this Saturday for this game," Mcclaren said. "We just have to look forward, keep pushing and keep fighting."

The team had a players-only meeting after their loss to Kentucky. Gerri Green, a senior defensive linemen from Greenville, stepped up and was one of three players to take charge at that meeting.

"(It) was just to talk to the team without the coaches, let them know that everything was okay," Green said. "Kind of get everybody level and get everyone back to our standard. These last few practices we have come out extremely focused."

One of the things Shoop said he learned is that teams are going to run different offenses to counteract the strong defensive line of MSU.

"Teams are going to run gimmicky offenses on us, kind of unbalanced formations or run formations into the sideline," Shoop said. "We took a new approach this week because we knew Dan Mullen uses a lot of those formations and has a unique style. Hopefully we will be much improved in those scenarios this week."

Shoop said the team’s focus is at the highest point yet this year, and while it hurts that it took a loss for this to happen, it does show how the team can move forward and play the most important game all year, which is the next one on the schedule.

"Yesterday was as locked-in and as focused of a practice as we have had all year," Shoop said. "There was not really a whole lot of yelling and screaming, it was really business. I think when you are 18 to 22 years old, it is hard to stay locked in for long periods of time. I think we rallied back this week, but we will find out."

Green said the team is focused on this game not because former head coach Mullen is on the other sideline, but because it is the first SEC home game on the schedule, and they need to win the game.

"This game, the main focus is this is the first SEC home game of the season," Green said. "The emotions are going to be there, but we learned last week what happens when you let your emotions get too high."

One of the keys to the MSU defense is stopping the run, once they can do this, they can put pressure on the quarterback; however, they struggled with this against Kentucky last week. Green said it is always a challenge to stop the run in the SEC.

"We are still going against SEC running backs, they are good, you know," Green said. "If you give them a hole, they are going to hit it. They have speed, power, so you cannot overlook a running back in the SEC."

This game is the first time MSU (3-1) will play Florida (3-1) since Mullen went there, and as much as the fans make the game about Mullen’s return, the players like Errol Thompson, a sophomore linebacker from Florence, Alabama, who was recruited by Mullen before coming to MSU, have moved on.

"I have moved on from everything," Thompson said. "We have a great new staff, coach Moorhead and a whole new defensive staff. Everything is cool, and I have moved on."

Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. on ESPN, it is a white-out game, and the winningest coach in MSU history, Jackie Sherrill, will be honored at halftime in the first SEC home game for the Bulldogs. 

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