OPINION: One more game – a big one – for MSU seniors

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Maybe there were tears, but I saw none following Mississippi State’s 42-21 loss to Arkansas on Saturday.
Tears would have been understandable, since the loss eliminated the Bulldogs from bowl consideration. The best they can do now is 5-7, which means just one game remains in the college careers of guys like Jamar Chaney, Anthony Dixon and Marcus Washington.
Perhaps it’s some consolation that those guys were part of the 2007 Liberty Bowl-winning squad, but that was a long time ago. Outside expectations for this season aside, MSU’s players planned on doing better than this.
“It’s real disappointing,” said Chaney, the middle linebacker who gained another year of eligibility after breaking his leg in the 2008 season opener. “Because when you go into a season … you’re going in to win.
“When that don’t happen, and you know your season is going to end this week, it’s much disappointment, especially if it’s your last year.”
The great thing about playing for Mississippi State, though, is that the Bulldogs will have a bowl game of sorts. The Egg Bowl kicks off at 11:21 a.m. Saturday in Starkville.
“I’m a senior, this is my last game, and I’m looking to going out with a win,” Chaney said. “We ain’t going to a bowl game, so that’s our bowl game next week.”

Plenty still at stake
Sure, this game would have a little more luster for MSU if bowl eligibility was on the line. There is still plenty to play for, though.
For one, a win puts MSU at 5-7, one game better than last season. Even should they lose to Ole Miss, the Bulldogs are clearly improved, but having that improvement show up in the win column would be nice.
For two, while he’s not too concerned about his personal numbers, Dixon needs just 126 yards to break the MSU single-season rushing yards mark, held by J.J. Johnson.
For three, it’ll be the first Egg Bowl for coach Dan Mullen, his first chance to face, as a head coach, “the school up north.” Last time he faced the Rebels, as Florida’s offensive coordinator, his side came up a 31-30 loser last season.
“We play the Egg Bowl. That’s a bowl game,” Mullen said. “We’re playing the school up north, huge rivalry game. Any time it’s an in-state rivalry game, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
Maybe that’s why there were no tears Saturday, because MSU has been conditioned by Mullen to look ahead, not back. The Bulldogs will hit the practice field today, eyes set on this next game.
“We’ll shake it off tonight and tomorrow, and we’ll be back at it,” Dixon said, and I believe him. Of all the players, you’d expect him to be the most disappointed, because he has been the one talking the most enthusiastically about reaching the postseason in what he saw as a great last hurrah.
Alas, MSU fans only get to watch Dixon, who rushed for 176 yards against the Razorbacks, and the rest of the seniors one more time in Bulldog uniforms.
“We’re definitely trying to go out with a bang still,” Dixon said, “so we’re going to give it all we’ve got.”

Brad Locke (brad.locke@djournal.com) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal and blogs daily at NEMS360.com.

Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal