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Two games, two totally different views

By By Stan Torgerson / guest columnist
Oct. 8, 2002
What coaches say immediately after a game, particularly if they lose, and what they say the next day can be two entirely different things.
Take Jackie Sherrill for instance. On his Sunday TV show he tried to put on the best possible face for the home folks. You would expect him to do that. He praised some of his kids for playing well and explained his team was short handed because of injuries. His comments on the Bulldogs offensive effort were a bit short of being candid, but that is to be expected as well. He was obviously trying to make chicken salad out of chicken feathers.
But the truth is that the defeat at South Carolina was MSU's eighth consecutive loss on the road dating back to their 45-30 defeat at Ole Miss in 2000. It also marked the Bulldogs seventh consecutive SEC road loss, again dating back to 2000. The Dogs are 1-4 this season and 4-12 including last year.
His team is in trouble and so is he. The natives are restless. The drums are beating in the background. The gallows are under construction. Another performance or two such as the one Saturday and the rope will be hanging there on the ready.
His postgame comments Saturday afternoon at South Carolina were resigned and virtually apolgetic.
They started with the standard coaching cliche to end all coaching cliches.
Have you ever heard a coach say his kids gave up? Of course not. Kids don't give up. They get bewildered, tired, desperately unhappy but they don't give up. Coaches can. Fans do. Writers are cruel. But the kids themselves don't give up.
It was Sherrill's next statement that got to me.
You mean it was a moral victory for the Bulldogs that South Carolina only scored 13 points in the second half after leading 21-0 at the turn? Holding the Gamecocks to 34 points is not a moral victory when your team has only 10.
Give Sherrill credit for facing the truth after the game when he said this: "South Carolina dominated our defense. We were not sharp throwing and catching the ball in the first part of the game. We couldn't make plays up front. They dominated us."
Then Jackie put the season on the line.
But how if the talent isn't there?
Jackie may be discouraged but State's players still have some fight in them.
Mario Hagan, LB: "This season, it continues to go downhill. We need to keep playing, keep practicing and turn it around. We have to keep fighting. It's a long season and we still have a long way to go."
Kevin Fant, QB: "When everyone does their job we will put points on the board."
The next two games couldn't have come at a better time for the battered Bulldogs. Troy State comes to Starkville Saturday and, while they upset MSU last year, if the Bulldogs have any gas left in their tank this is a game they should and must win.
The week after that Sherrill's kids go to Memphis to play a Tiger team that has proven not to be as good as believed preseason. Then an open date before tackling the murderer's row of Kentucky, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas and Ole Miss. Hagan is right. There still is a long way to go. But if State loses to Troy State or Memphis or both, then we may see some giving up, including a coach forced to give up his job.
On another note, there's no doubt the win over Florida will be regarded as one of the classic moments in Ole Miss football history. The fans know it, the coaches know it. The players know it.
Coach David Cutcliffe: "I feel we are capable of playing with anyone when we play our best football. It's important for our team to understand that and this win is reassurance of that."
Eli Manning, QB: "This is probably the biggest win I've ever had. It wasn't the prettiest but it was about the sweetest I've had."
Matt Grier whose interception and runback for a touchdown produced the winning points: "We came out today and played as a team. We really didn't notice it was Florida on the other side of the ball. We treated this game like any other one this year."
Defensive captain Eddie Strong: "I knew suiting up against Florida was going to be a big deal when I was out there on the first snap. I knew then we were going to step up big."
Two dressing rooms with two different attitudes. But of course, with two different results as well.