November 15, 2010 9:19:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- A day after Mississippi State''s football team proved to be its own worst enemy in a 30-10 loss to Alabama, head coach Dan Mullen turned his attentions to rebounding the same way it did when it lost at LSU.
The No. 22 Bulldogs (7-3, 3-3 Southeastern Conference) won six straight games following their early-season defeat in Baton Rouge, La., and Mullen is keen to see his team channel the same focus ahead of another ranked contest against No. 13 Arkansas.
Saturday at Alabama, the formula for defeat was much the same as it was against the Tigers: MSU failed to respond to its opponents knockout punches.
MSU gave up three one-play drives that resulted in 45, 56 and 78-yard scores, putting the game out of reach considering State''s offense was unbalanced and penalty prone.
"When you''re on the road and in those situations, you have to seize momentum. you got to come straight back with a big play," Mullen said Sunday during his weekly teleconference. "At the moment, for us to give up three consecutive big plays on defense and not have any response on offense, that''s where you have to change to be a championship level team."
MSU''s seven penalties and four dropped passes drew the coach''s ire, considering the Bulldogs had an extra week to prepare.
Bulldogs players said coping with the death of teammate Nick Bell during their bye-week didn''t affect their energy or focus Saturday night.
"I think we came out with some pretty good energy at the beginning, we just got out of it when they started making big plays," middle linebacker Chris White said Saturday. "We just got to work harder to not let that happen."
But for a young team, a slip-up against the defending national champions isn''t a sign of a meltdown, Mullen said.
"There''s a lot of thing that when we go meet with our team, we''re not just waving panic flags all over the place right now," Mullen said. "There''s a lot of things we need to teach to improve.
"You can see some good things that we did, certainly a lot of bad things as well. What we have to do as coaches is teach off of those. The young players that made mistakes, we have to see improvement out of them next week."
Alabama held MSU''s passing game under 150 yards for the seventh time this season, though up until Saturday''s game the Bulldogs were able to survive on its ground game.
MSU''s running backs had 33 carries without losing a single yard against Alabama. But quarterback Chris Relf was sacked five times.
Relf and backup Tyler Russell combined for a pair of interceptions.
Mullen said Relf is still the starting quarterback despite the perception he can''t lead the team out of large deficits when the team must pass.
"Chris did some good things," Mullen said. "Had two balls tipped that we had open receivers on, and we can''t get the balls tipped. And we had a couple of drops. There''s plenty of fingers to be pointed from myself, to every one of our assistant coaches to every one on our team. When everybody makes a mistake, something bad is going to happen."
MSU drops in rankings
Following its 30-10 loss to Alabama, the Mississippi State Bulldogs fell to No. 22 in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches polls.
MSU entered last week ranked No. 17 in the AP poll and No. 18 in the USA Today poll. Alabama moved up to No. 10 in the AP Top 25 and No. 12 in the USA Today poll.
MSU has been ranked for five consecutive weeks.