September 24, 2018 10:18:55 PM
STARKVILLE -- Joe Moorhead sees no point in ignoring the obvious.
Mississippi State's football coach is not ignoring the fact that his predecessor, Dan Mullen, is coaching MSU's next opponent. That being the case, Moorhead expects Florida (3-1) to be a particularly difficult challenge emotionally for No. 19 MSU (3-1), especially for a team that already allowed emotions to play a factor in committing 16 penalties for 139 yards last week. Moorhead plans on having the emotions in check by 5 p.m. Saturday (ESPN).
"We understand there will be a certain emotional component attached to this game, for our kids to understand that will be a part of it but not let that distract them," Moorhead said.
As wide receiver Osirus Mitchell said after the loss to Kentucky, "Stay focused, stay humble. Don't let all the hype about the coach we're playing get to us and stay focused."
Moorhead hopes the promise of what could come will make it easier to ignore those distractions.
Moorhead's attempt to refocus the team on the future referenced his personal experience. In his first season as Penn State's offensive coordinator; his Nittany Lions took an upset loss to Pitt two weeks before a 49-10 loss to Michigan. The Nittany Lions started 2-2 and already a game down in the Big 10 East; they ended the season as Big 10 champions with a trip to the Rose Bowl.
"As I told the team, all the goals we want to accomplish are still out in front of us," Moorhead said. "Ultimately, the best way to predict our future is to create it, and we believe in that."
Time has yet to heal for Moorhead.
Moorhead allowed some agitation from the 28-7 loss to the Wildcats to show in his Monday press conference.
"Ultimately, I'm going to point the thumb at myself first and I'm not going to make any excuses," Moorhead said. "I'm accountable for every aspect of this football program and accept full responsibility for the loss. That's on me and we're going to get it right.
"Our coaching staff didn't become dumb overnight and our players didn't become bad overnight. One loss won't define this team and one loss won't define this season. I promise you this: we're going to work tirelessly and we're going to get this freaking thing right. Hopefully everyone understands our standard, one game is not going to change our approach and one game is not going to define this damn team, and we're going to get this thing right."
Moorhead already has plans to enforce that standard on personal foul penalties, which accounted for five of MSU's penalties and a total of 75 yards.
"We're going to put an end to these unsportsmanlike penalties," Moorhead said. "Any unsportsmanlike penalty now, I'm going to pull the guy out of the game, they'll come stand next to me and they'll go back in when I tell them to go back in. One way to get their attention is take away their playing time, so we're going to get that fixed, as well.
"It's showing emotions without being emotional. I think you can compete hard, I think you can exert maximum effort and do things necessary to be successful without losing your head and being hot-tempered. There's a difference between playing hard and picking up the ball and throwing it at somebody, or playing hard and pushing somebody after the snap. That's not toughness, that's extra, it's unnecessary and it's unacceptable. You're not going to see that moving forward."
Moorhead said defensive end Marquiss Spencer had a nagging upper body injury and he decided to have surgery on it, ending his season. Spencer's season ends with three tackles and one quarterback hurry.
Cornerback Jamal Peters remains out indefinitely with his lower-body injury. Linebacker Sh'mar Kilby-Lane, tight end Justin Johnson and cornerback Tyler Williams are day-to-day with minor injuries.
Auburn coming at night
For the fourth time this season in as many opportunities, MSU will host a night game.
The Southeastern Conference announced its game times for the week of Oct. 6, confirming MSU's game against the Tigers will kick off at either 6 or 6:30 p.m. If it is on ESPN it will be at 6, but a 6:30 start would push it to ESPN2 or SEC Network.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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