September 14, 2010 8:22:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- There''s consensus within Mississippi State''s football team that wins will come when plays are made.
The team derives confidence from knowing a key catch or sack will be the final step to winning big-time games. The coaches'' concerns about players not being in position to make plays has decreased through the team''s first two games, defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said Monday.
"We can play, but we''ve just got to do it all the time," he said. "If we just do our stuff, we''re pretty hard to contend with."
The dropped passes, errant throws, and defensive lapses that marred the team''s 17-14 loss to Auburn must be avoided, or at least limited, if the Bulldogs want to realize their potential.
MSU coach Dan Mullen bemoaned the lack of flawless execution Thursday against Auburn. Although encouraged by what he saw on film, he''s ready to see his team turn the corner in close games.
Mullen hasn''t dodged the factor that his team''s youth is its tallest hurdle in turning close losses into wins, but he feels MSU has the players to be a "championship level" team.
Diaz concurs, as coaches navigate the ups and downs of their underclassmen''s growth.
"Some lessons, unfortunately, you have to learn in the game," Diaz said. "You wish it wasn''t that way, but that''s the way it is."
MSU dropped five passes and committed two turnovers, but it has identified those areas of concerns and is working to improve concentration and to develop more confidence because players are open or in position to make a play.
"When you put your guys in to make a play, maturity in some places will show up, and it''s starting to show up in some areas," offensive coordinator Les Koenning said. "We just need to keep progressing. We''re so much farther ahead than where we were last year."
As the Bulldogs prepare for their game Saturday at No. 15 LSU, Mullen is eager to have a quality week of practice with extended time to game plan. He''ll use the week to determine the kicking reps and quarterback snaps, which is in line with how he has handled position rotations thus far.
Starting quarterback Chris Relf is listed as this week''s starter, and Mullen said it will remain that way until backup Tyler Russell beats him for the job.
"As far as rotating and getting guys in the game, that''s not going to change for us," Mullen said. "We''ll look at the plan and decide what the rotation will be."
Green limited, on target for LSU
MSU junior tight end Marcus Green''s knee injury is lingering into game week preparations for LSU.
MSU hasn''t revealed the extent of the injury Green suffered in the second half against Auburn, but Mullen insisted Green will play against LSU.
"It''s our plan for him to play in the game Saturday," he said Monday.
Green was limited Monday at practice, and his post-practice media availability wasn''t granted. Green, who was wearing a long brace down his right leg, left the field with training personnel.
The Bulldogs officially ruled out three players for Saturday''s game.
Two of those players, redshirt freshman fullback William Shumpert and sophomore defensive tackle Josh Jackson, have been inactive for the team''s first two games.
Shumpert''s surgery to relieve a disc problem was successful, and the team expects him to fully recover, Mullen said.
The team hasn''t determined when he''ll return.
Freshman offensive tackle Damien Robinson had surgery on his knee Friday and won''t play Saturday.
Senior tight end Thomas Webb, who has been inactive for the first two games due to a hand injury, will practice this week and play Saturday.
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