November 8, 2010 9:04:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- A bye week should be the most relaxing time of a football team''s season.
For No. 17 Mississippi State (7-2, 3-2 Southeastern Conference), last week''s break from competition shattered the ball club because of the death of defensive end Nick Bell.
Some players made multiple trips last week to Bell''s home state of Alabama -- first to visit Bell in the hospital and later in the week to attend his funeral.
Bell''s campus memorial service was held Thursday.
And as the team grieved and went through an altered bye-week schedule, the news of Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton''s alleged recruiting connection with former MSU player Kenny Rogers created additional headlines for the program.
According to an ESPN.com story, Rogers is alleged to have solicited $180,000 from MSU -- through former State quarterback John Bond -- to secure Newton''s commitment.
Newton, a Heisman Trophy frontrunner for undefeated Auburn, chose the Tigers over his former University of Florida mentor''s Bulldogs.
Newton''s recruitment is being investigated by the NCAA, which has already talked to Bond.
Sunday, during his weekly teleconference, Mullen was straightforward in his first public comments on Mississippi State''s end of Newton''s recruitment.
He preceded by expressing the solidarity between himself, Bond and MSU''s administration in how the situation was handled -- MSU says it immediately reported the overture to the SEC.
"We did everything exactly the right way and exactly like how we should carry ourselves in the NCAA and, to be honest with you, I haven''t thought of the Cam Newton situation since December when it was reported to the people that know," Mullen said. "The truth of the situation is, the people that need to know the truth, know the truth."
Rogers denied trying to procure money for Newton''s services in an interview with an ESPN Radio affiliate in Dallas on Friday. Rogers says he met Mullen once.
Because of Bell''s passing, Mullen admits the team didn''t prepare for its next opponent, No. 11 Alabama, as much as it normally would coming off a bye week.
He''s hopeful today will be a return to normalcy.
"I guess you just turn on the film against Alabama to get our minds straight again of the task we have at hand," Mullen said Sunday. "The big thing for us is the game plan routine, and getting into the game week routine. We''ll get them back on a normal schedule."
MSU moves up in polls
For the third straight week, Mississippi State''s football team improved its national ranking.
The Bulldogs moved up from No. 21 to No. 17 in the Associated Press Top 25, and from No. 21 to No. 18 in the USA Today Coaches Poll.
Alabama, which hosts Mississippi State at 6:15 p.m. Saturday (ESPN2), fell from No. 5 in the AP poll to No. 11. The Crimson Tide fell from No. 5 to No. 12 in the USA Today poll.