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VOL. 129 | NO. 201 | Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mississippi State Finds Itself in Historic Times

By Don Wade

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In the 78-year history of the Associated Press college football poll, it had never happened. A team that was unranked at season’s start had never ascended to the top spot.

Memphis, in a 2011 game against Mississippi State, is 3-3, 1-1 in conference, after losing to Houston. The Bulldogs find themselves at the top of the polls.

(Daily News File/Lance Murphey)

Now, Mississippi State has made that history as the Bulldogs climbed to No. 1, leaping from being tied at No. 3 with Ole Miss to go in front of former No. 1 Florida State. This was the reward after beating then-No. 2 Auburn 38-23 last Saturday.

It’s the first time in the 119-year history of MSU football that the Bulldogs have been No. 1, which they also are in the coaches’ poll this week.

“I couldn’t be happier for the university, the students, and the alumni,” Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen said after the polls came out on Sunday. “For so many years you try to accomplish something and to be able to say we’re the best at something is special.

“But,” Mullen added, “for us as a team – they don’t give out the trophy midseason. We really haven’t accomplished all that much.”

Well, they have scored three victories over Top 10 teams this season – another first in school history – and raced out to a 6-0, 3-0, start to share the top perch in the SEC West with rival Ole Miss, which remains No. 3 nationally.

The Bulldogs jumped out to a 21-0 lead on Auburn and after the game Tigers defensive lineman Angelo Blackson said of MSU: “That’s a great team.”

With a bye this week, the Bullies would figure to get a minimum of two weeks at No. 1. They play at Kentucky, having a surprisingly good season in its own right, on Saturday, Oct. 25, and CBS already has booked it as its 2:30 p.m. featured game.

Alabama is still alive in the SEC West hunt at 5-1 and 2-1, but narrowly escaped with a 14-13 victory at Arkansas last Saturday. The No. 7 Crimson Tide were sloppy, to say the least, as they fumbled punts, committed penalties, and even failed to correctly run a quarterback sneak on fourth and inches.

Coach Nick Saban went so far to call QB Blake Sims’ odd attempt at the first down the “ugliest looking quarterback sneak I ever saw.”

This week, Alabama will be looking to give Texas A&M (5-2, 2-2) a third straight loss. The Aggies fell 35-20 to Ole Miss last Saturday. Coach Kevin Sumlin didn’t sound like a man expecting big improvement.

“There were a numbers of times today where we just got whipped,” Sumlin said afterward, “and it’s hard to fix that.”

Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace followed his strong second half in the victory over Alabama with a three-touchdown game against the Aggies. He ran for two scores and rushed for 50 yards on 14 carries. At one point on third down, he ran nine yards for a first down by rumbling through three Texas A&M players.

“I don’t like to see it all the time,” Rebels coach Hugh Freeze said. “But I kind of liked it at that moment.”

The University of Memphis dropped to 3-3, 1-1 in the American Athletic Conference, with its 28-24 loss to Houston at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.

Tigers QB Paxton Lynch threw three interceptions, including one near game’s end as the Tigers were trying to rally.

“They had us (schemed) on the screen they intercepted toward the end of the game,” Memphis coach Justin Fuente said. “I put (Lynch) in a bad spot. We have to make plays and we just can’t force that throw.”

Said Lynch: “We had an original play call and we checked out of it and went to screen on the boundary and they just read it the whole way. … It was not a good look.”

The Tigers have a bye this week before playing at winless SMU at 11 a.m. on Oct. 25. The game will be broadcast by ESPNews.

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