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October 29, 2012
Mississippi State went 344 days without losing a football game.
That streak spanned nine games and 49 weeks dating back to Nov. 19, 2011 but now the Bulldogs will have to pick themselves back up off the mat and fix some of the mistakes that led to their loss against top-ranked Alabama.
The Crimson Tide won convincingly 38-7 last Saturday in Tuscaloosa with MSU turning the ball over three times and caught out of position on multiple occasions on defense.
"There were a bunch of different moments where you can see we made errors," said MSU head coach Dan Mullen. "(Alabama) capitalized on them. We said all week that Alabama is a team with tremendous talent who makes minimal mistakes and wears you down. We made enough mistakes for them to capitalize throughout the whole course of the game and those are things you can't do against them."
Now the 15th ranked Bulldogs have to regroup and prepare for a potent Texas A&M offense which ranks first in the Southeastern Conference averaging 542.9 yards and 45.5 points per game.
"It's a real tough challenge," Mullen said. "They are a talented football team. They've got the best offense in the SEC in yards and points. They put up huge numbers on offense with big, big stats. They have a lot of different playmakers on the field and tremendous skill at every position. I think it gets overlooked because of their offense but their defense is stout. Their performances on defense has been pretty stout throughout the season."
Saturday will mark the third time Mullen's squad has matched up against a Kevin Sumlin offense while at State. The Bulldogs split a pair of games while Sumlin was coaching at Houston.
In 2009, Sumlin's offense directed by star quarterback Case Keenum amassed 553 yards including 434 passing in a 31-24 win in Starkville. The following year Mississippi State evened the score with a 47-24 win on the road in Houston.
"The philosophy of his offense certainly hasn't changed," Mullen said. "He's done a good job of tweaking it around the players. This is the third time we've had to play against him and the third different quarterback. That's where you start, you build around the strengths of your quarterback. They obviously do that now building around the strength of their quarterback and his playmaking ability."
That quarterback the Aggies have now is redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel, who in only eight career games has already broken the single game record for total offense twice. On the year, Manziel has 3,009 total yards of offense with 2,216 passing yards and 793 yards rushing and 29 total touchdowns (16 passing, 13 rushing).
"They spread you out all over the field and you have to defend all these great athletes," Mullen said. "Often times that leaves (Manziel) in the box all by himself and he's got tremendous athletic ability to keep plays alive and improvise. Not only does he execute their offense very well, he also has the ability to improvise and go create on his own outside of the box."
One loss does not put the Bulldogs out of the hunt for Atlanta just yet but the month of November will determine how much of a success this season is considered.
"You always define yourself in November to me as a team with what you're going to do and how you're going to perform to close out the season," Mullen said. "We've put ourselves in a great position entering the month of November and now this is what separates a good season from a great season and a great season from a championship season."
On the injury front, backup left tackle Archie Muniz is the only new addition. Muniz strained his lateral collateral ligament and was considered questionable but could return to practice as early as Tuesday.