Mississippi State in need of another Auburn upset

Published 9:25 pm Monday, September 8, 2008

JACKSON, Miss. – Winning, it turns out, isn’t second nature. Just ask Mississippi State.

The Bulldogs were full of high hopes — and perhaps unfounded expectations — following last year’s breakthrough 8-5 season. But with two games gone in 2008, they find themselves in need of another upset of No. 9 Auburn to wipe away a disappointing 1-1 start.

“Since I’ve been here, we’ve been through a lot of adversity,” Mississippi State safety Derek Pegues said. “I think that’s one of the best things we do is handle adversity. I think the biggest problem right now is success. I don’t think we handled that very well.”

Last season’s roll started with a 19-14 win at Auburn in Week 3, and coach Sylvester Croom can think of nothing better after a season-opening loss to Louisiana Tech and a ho-hum win over Championship Subdivision opponent Southeastern Louisiana than an upset of the Tigers on Saturday in Starkville.

“It would really be a big boost in confidence as far as moving forward from here,” Croom said.

The Bulldogs displayed all the traits that would lead them to their first winning season since 2000 and a Liberty Bowl victory in that win over the Tigers (2-0).

They were opportunistic. Pegues put the Bulldogs up 10-0 on a 20-yard interception return and another interception set up the winning score.

They were unflappable. Rather than pack up and give in after quarterback Michael Henig broke his hand early in the game, the team rallied behind Wes Carroll, the freshman who would go on to start nine games.

They were tough. Few teams bring the mean like Auburn, but Mississippi State stood up to the Tigers and finished them off with a stand near their end zone in the final minute.

Some of those traits have been missing in Mississippi State’s stumbling start. Croom believes the Southeastern Conference opener offers the Bulldogs the chance to pull it together again.

“This is why you want to be in the Southeastern Conference, to play in games like this,” he said. “We’ve got to have great preparation to give us a chance and on game day we’ve got to play as good as we can play. We haven’t come close to that yet. I still think we’ve got to play a lot better and I still think we can do that.”