October 4, 2010 7:57:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Last season, Mississippi State''s football team had two heartbreaking losses at home.
The University of Houston was one of the teams to escape Starkville with a win. Coming off a bye week, the Cougars (3-1, 2-0 Conference USA) will welcome the Bulldogs (3-2, 1-2 Southeastern Conference) to Texas on Saturday.
MSU, which committed four turnovers last year in a 31-24 loss, hopes for a clean performance against the nation''s sixth-highest scoring team. Despite 330 rushing yards, the miscues foiled MSU''s upset of then-ranked Houston.
MSU coach Dan Mullen acknowledged an officiating gaffe that cost his team possession near the Houston goal line and a holding penalty that negated a touchdown also contributed to the setback.
However, his biggest concern was his team''s response to adversity, as MSU had eight penalties and repeated mixups on zone option handoffs.
A win against Houston would have made MSU bowl eligible by the end of the season.
"When the adversity hit, (Houston) rebounded and made the play," Mullen said Sunday on his weekly teleconference. "When adversity hit us, we responded worse."
Those feelings were present Saturday after MSU''s 49-16 win against Alcorn State, though the Bulldogs used big plays and better talent to overcome the momentary lapses.
MSU had a season-high nine penalties, two turnovers, and a 200-yard quarter by their defense against Alcorn State. MSU''s consensus following the game was it should have a had a flawless performance.
"We weren''t full throttle the whole game, kind of sloppy," said Mullen, whose team is on a two-game winning streak. "This is a huge week for us. We''re playing on the road against a top quality team. After this game, we''ll at the halfway point of the season, which is much different being 4-2 than it is 3-3."
For the second straight week, MSU operated without tight ends Marcus Green and Brandon Henderson.
The Bulldogs also played without sophomore defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, who is nursing a sprained ankle he suffered in the final minutes against Georgia.
Mullen also said backup tight end Brandon Henderson was cleared to return to the field against Alcorn State, but the player felt he wasn''t fully fit from a knee injury, Mullen said.
"He felt he was still not 100 percent, so we didn''t play him," Mullen said. "I can imagine him being full-court practice today."
Green, who has missed three games with a knee injury, is still questionable to play against Houston.
"Hopefully he''ll be back today," Mullen said.
Mullen was just as vague regarding the status of Cox, who leads the interior linemen with three tackles for loss and one-and-a-half sacks.
"We''re hoping he''s going to be ready to go this week," Mullen said.
Welcome to Broadway
Houston freshman quarterback Terrance Broadway has had the unenviable task of replacing record-setting quarterback Case Keenum this season.
Keenum suffered a season-ending injury against UCLA on Sept. 18. Another injury to a backup has pressed Broadway, a freshman who Mullen recruited, into service.
"I''m sure he''s going to be a lot more comfortable now than the first game in the system," Mullen said. "He''s a very, very good player."
This will be the second straight week MSU will face a freshman quarterback (Alcorn State''s Brandon Bridge).
Saturday''s game also will mark the third time MSU has played a starting quarterback Mullen has recruited. Mullen recruited Auburn University quarterback Cameron Newton to the University of Florida and later to MSU, and tried to lure Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray to Florida.