Mississippi State fans knew coach Sylvester Croom wouldn't be able to turn the program around overnight, but they probably never suspected the program would fall so far so fast.
As if winning only eight games the past three years wasn't bad enough, the Bulldogs (1-2, 0-1 SEC) found a way to lose to Division I-AA Maine 9-7 at home on Saturday.
"It was sad, a lot of heads down," linebacker Clarence McDougal told the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. "It wasn't a good feeling that we lost to a I-AA team. We kept them in the game, if we keep teams in the game, they can do what they did."
Of the many ugly aspects of the loss, perhaps the worst is the way the Bulldogs blew its best scoring opportunities. Mississippi State reached the red zone five times and came away with only score. After the Bulldogs took a 7-0 lead on a 19-yard first-quarter scoring pass from Omarr Conner to Eric Butler, Mississippi State blew its other scoring chances on an interception thrown by Conner, fumbles by Butler and running back Fred Reid, and a missed 32-yard field goal attempt by Keith Andrews.
With the Bulldogs struggling to make the most of their opportunities, Maine finally cashed in when Ron Whitcomb threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Kevin McMahan with 2:55 left. The Black Bears then stopped Mississippi State twice in the final minutes to secure the win.
"I thought we were in good shape," Croom said, "but when you don't put points up in the red zone, that's a dangerous thing."
The Bulldogs now appear to be in surprisingly bad shape going into Saturday's game at LSU. The possibility of playing without running back Jerious Norwood, who missed the second half against Maine with a bruised knee, doesn't make the task any easier.
"Our team is extremely disappointed and they should be," Croom said. "Now we will really find out what kind of team we've got. In our locker room, we will find out if we will point fingers at each other or if we will stay together as a football team and be the best football team that we can possibly be."
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