November 2, 2013 6:43:40 PM
COLUMBIA, S.C. - WHAT WE LEARNED?
Mississippi State turned the football over, had miscommunication from the sidelines and went away from everything Saturday that had produced their four previous victories. MSU looked confused, frustrated and physically pounded during a 34-16 loss to No. 14 South Carolina where the outcome wasn't in doubt past the middle of the third quarter thanks to gift-wrapped turnovers.
"If you're going to turn the ball over five times and go minus-5 in the turnover ratio in the SEC, I'd put your winning percentage at about one percent I would guess," MSU coach Dan Mullen said. "You can't do those things and expect to win on the road."
The law of averages bit MSU as they came to Williams-Brice Stadium leading the Southeastern Conference with just six turnovers in seven previous games. The Bulldogs provided five giveaways to the South Carolina offense that the host Gamecocks easily turned into 20 points in front of a sellout crowd of 82,111.
"They were very critical," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said of the turnovers. "We're a pretty good overall team and it was neat to see our defense rise up and do some very good things."
The Bulldogs have lost six of its last seven conference games away from home and seven straight contests away from the friendly confines of Davis Wade Stadium.
Mullen is now 2-22 as a head coach against schools ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 poll and 3-22 when the opponent leads after halftime. Mullen's teams at MSU are now 5-10 in the month of November and the Bulldogs won't likely be favored in three of its final four games of the 2013 season.
The last time MSU (4-4, 1-3 in SEC) defeated the Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium is a 38-0 win in 1998.
MSU hadn't been so careless with the football since they had five turnovers in a 19-6 road loss at LSU on Sept. 15, 201 when Bulldogs quarterbacks Chris Relf and Tyler Russell tossed five interceptions.
"Turnovers are the story of this game, period," Mullen said. "You can look at it and say 'what was the problem?' but it's a different problem with every single one of them."
In each of their four victories this season, MSU had earned a plus-4 turnover margin but in their four losses, all to Bowl Championship Series schools, are now minus-5 in the statistic of the game Mullen arguably values the most.
"If you're going to ask me 'what are we going to do differently?', probably not anything because we were one of the best in the nation in limiting turnovers," Mullen said. "I'll be honest, if it were 5-0 turnovers the other way, I'll bet that win the game. I don't know that for sure but flip the turnovers and let the game play out, I'm going to say we win the game."
WHAT WE HEARD
Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen:
"It's a very disappointing day when we get 11 more first downs than them. We had a lot better pass completion, more yards, and more plays. The difference was we turned the ball over five times, and your percentage of winning, after doing that on the road in the SEC is very low. Besides that, we did a lot of good things. We did a great job on third down against one of the best defenses in the league. Our defense came out and played very well, but we had a couple of critical breakdowns and were put in some tough situations. We did a lot of things to win, but give South Carolina credit. They didn't make mistakes, and they made the plays; and we made mistakes and didn't make enough plays.
On the turnover to start the second half:
"It was huge. It was a 17-10 game, we've got good field position and we feel good about ourselves. We have the opportunity to take the ball down and tie the game up. They made a mistake on the kick-off, but we came back and made another mistake and gave them the ball. Turnovers were the story of the game."
On South Carolina's program and the atmosphere during today's game:
"You look at what they've done and what Coach Spurrier has been able to do here. It's an early kick-off and it's a sold-out stadium, not an empty seat in the house all the way through the fourth quarter. Their fans are making noise and cheering their team on. They've established and built a program here, and it's something that we're trying to catch up to. It takes everyone to be involved to build a program, and they've got everybody involved. We need to have the same atmosphere as they do right here, week in and week out, for all four quarters and create a hostile environment. It forces other teams into making mistakes, and that's how you win at home and become a contender in the SEC."
On team's preparation for the game and how turnovers changed the game:
"I thought we had a great week of practice and had great preparation. It's an early kick-off, and sometimes you're worried as a coach if you're going to have get your team up and going. We had a 7 a.m. wake-up time, but our guys were ready to go. You look at the game, and we did some really good things. I think if you flip the turnover ratio and they have five turnovers and we have zero, we could've won this game."
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier
"It was a very good win for our team. To get 15 in a row at home, maybe the best in the country, well Michigan but I think they play Ohio State there this year. It was a good win. Obviously our offense sputtered, it wasn't a really good day for our offense. I think we need to go back and get a little more physical in practice. It seemed like we were a little too soft and we didn't do too much. Fortunately our defense was there and got some turnovers and we were able to capitalize and score some touchdowns and only have to kick a couple of field goals. Really good play by Elliott Fry, he made both of his [field goals]. Our punter, Tyler Hull, he caught them and got them out. I think we played with zero turnovers, that's one thing our offense did well was take care of the ball. We couldn't run it very well and we couldn't throw it very well at times. We hit a few touchdown passes fortunately but third downs we were pretty sorry and overall we were very sorry. Mississippi State had a good plan and they got the best of our offense today but it is a team sport. Our special teams played well and our defense played very well and got all of those turnovers that sort of set up. We only had 54 plays and 300 yards and they stopped us. Give those guys credit, they were a little bit better than us in that area but still we won the game and sometimes you need to win that way. We're a pretty good team and it was neat to see our defense rise up and do some very good playing here today."
On how big the turnovers were in win:
"I think we scored on all of them, usually touchdowns but we did have a couple field goals that we had to kick. They were very crucial. We did have one good drive in the third quarter about 85 yards when Mike [Davis] had his one long run. I think Mike went over 1,000 yards today with that long run. Pharaoh [Cooper] had a few runs in there. Turnovers were crucial and Mike Davis did have another excellent game. We gave President Pastides a game ball. He's been here for all 15 of those wins at home and he's one of the best presidents in the nation and we're lucky to have him here. It was neat to have him in the locker room to give him a game ball."
On how Connor Shaw played having the illness earlier in the week:
"He played ok. He wasn't as sharp as some of his games this year but he felt fine. We had some bad plays too, I kept thinking at home maybe we'd be able to audible. Give Mississippi State credit for disguising, as soon as he [Connor Shaw] picked his foot up they would change their defense against the play we had. We hit one little screen pass. Maybe it was a game they just had a lot of good calls on and maybe we didn't because we looked pretty poor a lot today especially on third downs."
MSU quarterback Dak Prescott
On identifying what went wrong today and how to fix it:
"Everybody doing their job. Everyone making the block, everybody doing the right route, being big on a catch, just the little things we have to fix and it starts with me. We are going to get that right."
On how momentum shifted from Mississippi State early in the game to South Carolina:
"We went down there and scored and that's how the game should have went the whole game. We didn't execute. The first drive should have been like the rest of the game."
On how he feels after taking numerous hits:
"The loss hurts more than all of it but I'm all right."
Mississippi State LB Bernardrick McKinney
On offense turnovers putting the defense with their back against the walls:
"To be a great defense, no matter what situation you are in, you have to make big plays and stop them even if the offense turns it over and they are on the 1-yard line. Defense has got to make a big play to get the offense back on the field."
On Coach Mullen saying it was the coaches' fault the sack being followed up by a long South Carolina play:
"I never blame anything on anybody. I feel like that the defense should have made the plays even if the coaches put us in a bad position."
Mississippi State CB Cedric Jiles
On if he is frustrated seeing players break through the coverage:
"It isn't frustrating really. It's more `let me get my stuff together and don't get beat.'"
On quick turnarounds due to the offense turnovers:
"You have got to be ready to play and stop the offense every down and make the changes. You've got to make a play and get the offense back on the field."
Connor Shaw · QB · Senior
On the offensive line's performance:
"I think our offensive line has played well throughout the season. I didn't have my best game today. We were 1-for-11 on third down conversions. The only way you win with that is if the defense has five turnovers. But, I thought our offensive line played solid today."
On his four touchdown passes:
"It was good to have four touchdowns on the day. I think we were 4-for-4 in the red zone. I just tried to distribute the ball to our players, and they made plays for us today."
On playing at home:
"Our players love to play at home, there's no place like it. Our fan base is the best in the country, and I think we've proven that with 15 wins at home."
No. 12 Texas A&M (7-2, 3-2)
MSU will now travel to College Station, Texas next week to face the defending Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and the No. 12 Texas A&M Aggies (7-2, 3-2 in SEC). It will be the Bulldogs first trip to Kyle Field and only second ever game in College Station.
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
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