By Brad Locke/Daily Journal
HOOVER, Ala. – Tyler Russell hopes to turn his regrets into better results.
The way he finished last season still stings. Mississippi State lost five of its final six games, with Russell throwing six interceptions over the final two games – losses to Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl and to Northwestern in the Gator Bowl.
Russell, who spoke at SEC Media Days on Wednesday, said he called a team meeting when the team reconvened after the bowl game.
“I told these guys, look, that’s on me. I take that blame,” Russell said. “I should’ve been better prepared, I should’ve studied harder, and I should’ve made some throws that I made earlier in the year that I didn’t make in those last two games.
“For me it’s just getting back to the basics, just knowing what I’m capable of doing, and I’ve never worked this hard in my life, and I’m passionate about it.”
On the whole, the fifth-year senior had a very good 2012 season. He completed 58.6 percent of his passes for 2,897 yards, 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Russell was a big reason MSU started 7-0, but then it stumbled to an 8-5 finish. A lot of that had to do with a backloaded schedule that included games against Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M.
Coach Dan Mullen said the Bulldogs let the first loss – a 38-7 setback at Alabama – “possibly affected some other games afterwards.” Linebacker Benardrick McKinney said players “let it get to our minds.”
Russell said the Bama loss defined the rest of MSU’s season.
“We were unable to come back from that one loss,” he said. “I’m doing my best to change that, to let guys know, hey, listen, it doesn’t matter if we lose one game. That’s not the end of the season.”
MSU could see a similar situation arise this season, with the schedule again a little tougher on the back end. After opening November with back-to-back road games against South Carolina and Texas A&M, State hosts Alabama, plays at Arkansas, and then closes out against Ole Miss.
“If we start off the season 7-0, I think our guys are going to know how to handle that adversity a little bit better, (and) not potentially let one game spiral into multiple games with the disappointment,” Mullen said.
Russell is doing all he can to ensure one loss doesn’t again snowball into several losses. His poor finish continues to motivate him months later.
The final game of last season is what really eats at Russell, who was intercepted four times by Northwestern. He said he learned a valuable lesson that day in Jacksonville.
“I watched film, but I didn’t spend as much time as I needed to watch. I’ll never let that happen again,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter who we play, I’m going to do my best to help us get that win.”