STARKVILLE, Miss. – Mississippi State's showdown with top-ranked Alabama didn't go so well for the Bulldogs.
Now coach Dan Mullen is trying to make sure a bad day against the Crimson Tide doesn't turn into a bad month.
"You always define yourself in November," Mullen said. "And we've put ourselves in great position during the month of November. Now this is what separates a good season from a great season and a great season from a championship season."
The end of October wasn't much fun. Mississippi State's undefeated season ended in a lopsided 38-7 loss to an Alabama team that was better in every facet of the game.
But the No. 17 Bulldogs (7-1, 3-1 SEC) don't have much time to sulk. Mullen says his team must learn from their mistakes and get ready for No. 16 Texas A&M (6-2, 3-2) on Saturday.
Mississippi State's coaches said tape from the Alabama loss revealed a mix of positive and negative news. The good is that the Bulldogs were talented enough to move the ball on offense and make stops on defense when everyone was handling their assignment.
The bad news is there were a bunch of missed assignments.
"We have to be a better football team this week than we were last week," Mullen said. "Throughout the season you have to continually improve, the only way you do that is through how you prepare and how you practice. That comes down to your work ethic on a daily basis."
The Aggies come into the game with the SEC's most prolific offense, averaging 45.5 points and 542.9 yards per game. They gained 671 yards in last week's 63-21 victory over Auburn and have scored at least 58 points in four out of eight games.
And Texas A&M's offensive scheme is a complete 180 from the Crimson Tide's straight-forward, ball-control approach.
The Bulldogs have to figure out a way to at least slow down Texas A&M's freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel, who averages 277 passing yards per game and leads the SEC with 99.1 rushing yards per game. He threw for two touchdowns and ran for three more in the Auburn win.
Mississippi State blew several defensive assignments against Alabama — especially in the passing game — which was a big reason the Bulldogs fell into a 24-0 halftime hole. If it happens against Texas A&M, it could be another long game.
Mississippi State defensive coordinator Chris Wilson said he's confident the Bulldogs' veteran defense, which is led by linebacker Cameron Lawrence and cornerback Johnthan Banks, will bounce back quickly.
"We're second right now in the league, and we've got a chance to be 8-1 if we go out and play at a higher level and execute at a higher level," Wilson said. "I don't think we put as much into (one loss) as maybe the outside world. We've got to go play better. We've got to go fix our issues. We do that and we'll be ready to go."
Mississippi State's offense had some good moments against the Tide — like a 97-yard drive in the third quarter. The problem was the drive ended with quarterback Tyler Russell throwing an interception.
The oh-so-close theme was repeated often throughout the night.
The Alabama loss didn't just hurt Mississippi State's ego. The Crimson Tide put several hard hits on Russell and others — like linebacker Benardrick McKinney, offensive tackles Blaine Clausell and Charles Siddoway — missed part of the game due to various injuries.
But Mullen didn't expect any of them to miss the Texas A&M game.
"This time of year everybody is bumped and bruised and everybody has a boot on," Mullen said. "Everybody has tape and ice all over their bodies but that happens in the Southeastern Conference."
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