November 30, 2012 2:43:30 PM
Matthew Stevens - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- Immediately after his first loss to the University of Mississippi, Mississippi State University fourth-year football coach Dan Mullen stood by his stance against his team's biggest rival.
Asked if he regretted saying he'd never lose to the Rebels, something that was replayed Saturday on the Vaught-Hemingway Stadium video board in the final seconds of Ole Miss' 41-24 victory, Mullen stood firm.
"Absolutely not. I stand by that statement," Mullen said. "We will never lose to that program. I stand by that statement, and would make it again. We just have to work harder, and these guys didn't put in enough to win this game. We need more."
In an interview with The Dispatch on Thursday, MSU Director of Athletics Scott Stricklin said he stands by Mullen and his confidence. He said MSU should and will continue its strong marketing campaigns like its "This is Our State" theme.
"The only real thing we did for the Egg Bowl is put gold in the uniform, and that's all we did special for that game," Stricklin said. "That's an important trophy for us, and can't wait to get it back again next year."
Stricklin refuted the claim that the "This is Our State" campaign is a negative against Ole Miss or other state institutions. Instead, he said it is used to highlight MSU's uniqueness.
"It's about pride and ownership of that name Mississippi State," Stricklin said. "It's pride of the 75 percent of undergraduates being from the state of Mississippi. Quite frankly, it is our state."
Ole Miss didn't feel that way Saturday, as coach Hugh Freeze suggested his program and players took a lot of the motivation from Mullen's perceived arrogant attitude toward the school he refuses to name and calls "The School Up North."
"This game was personal," Ole Miss sophomore wide receiver Donte Moncrief said. "I've been hearing through Twitter and other media that we were soft and a lot of noise."
In 2009, Mullen was in his first season and showed he was ready to embrace the biggest rivalry game in the state of the Mississippi by taking took the microphone after a 41-27 victory against Ole Miss at Davis Wade Stadium and saying, "One team in this state is on the rise and heading into the right direction."
In 2012, Freeze brought new energy to a program that had grown tired of being pushed around in a rivalry for the past half decade.
"I do think we went about it a little different than maybe some others," Freeze said. "We didn't play out of hatred for anyone. It was about playing out of love for one another."
Stricklin said he will continue to encourage Mullen's behavior toward Ole Miss.
"I want us to have confidence and have aspirations," Stricklin said. "If you sit back and say we're not going to talk about winning that game because we might lose, that's a defeatist attitude. We're going to play that game Nov. 30, 2013, and we plan on winning that game."
Jackson to get NFL draft feedback
MSU junior offensive guard Gabe Jackson used his Twitter campaign to say he will get scouting feedback for the 2013 NFL draft.
"Throwing my name in the hat and seeing what comes out....#anxious," Jackson tweeted from his @Bigsmooth_61 Twitter account.
Last year, MSU junior defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and defensive back Johnthan Banks submitted paperwork to the NFL draft advisory board to see where their scouts estimated they'd get picked. Cox went No. 12 to the Philadelphia Eagles, while Banks returned for his senior season in Starkville.
"I always encourage all of them to fill out the paperwork if they have the interest," Mullen said. "We see where their status is. Sometimes we'll try even to go beyond that. I'll talk to some coaches in the NFL and then we'll sit down with the family and make educated decisions (about) what is best for these guys' futures."
Jackson, who was on the watch lists for the 2012 Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award, will have the choose after MSU's bowl game to return to MSU or to declare for the NFL draft.
"People tell me about it or text me about it," Jackson told MSU's 247Sports.com site. "But I really don't pay attention to it that much. It's always in the back of my mind, but I try to not to think about it. I will definitely get some (NFL) feedback, but the odds are pretty good I will be back (at MSU)."