Bulldogs need to find consistency in Vanderbilt trip

·2 min read

Oct. 20—STARKVILLE — Mississippi State will play at Vanderbilt Stadium on Saturday afternoon with prestigious Vanderbilt University Medical Center just a stone's throw away.

Vanderbilt has often been a site of instant wellness for SEC teams, and the Bulldogs could use a little magic elixir right now.

When Vanderbilt named former walk-on Clark Lea to lead the Commodores into the post-Derek Mason transition for many it was a "who" hire and not a "wow" hire.

Those who looked more closely at Lea's run of success as defensive coordinator at Notre Dame understood that Lea brings more than his Nashville roots to the table.

The informed and uninformed alike could agree that Lea faces an enormous challenge.

James Franklin went 24-15 at Vanderbilt from 2011-2013. The other nine coaches going back to 1975 had losing records with the Commodores, many of them on the bad end by a wide margin.

When Lea and the Commodores lost 23-3 to FCS foe East Tennessee State in the season opener it looked like more of the same.

Vanderbilt, though, enters this game at 2-5 and has shown a willingness to fight and an ability to compete against middling teams.

They were blown out by Florida and Georgia, won against Colorado State and UConn and last week were on the edge of beating South Carolina on the road before the Gamecocks capped a 75-yard drive with a final-seconds touchdown.

This is not an unmanageable situation for Mississippi State, nor was last year when the Bulldogs eeked out a 24-17 win before the 'Dores finished 0-9.

MSU is at a time and place that it needs to think more about itself than any opponent.

There are some similarities between Vanderbilt and MSU.

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"Our issue is stringing together a consistent performance," Lea said in his South Carolina postgame comments. "That's something I've talked about after each loss, about how all three phases need to interlock in performance. I thought they did that tonight."

The Bulldogs' failure to compete better against Alabama — not necessarily win — was disturbing after a great winning effort at Texas A&M followed by an open date.

It was a return to their own consistency issues from earlier in the season.

This week there will be no concern for the other team's logo as MSU linebacker Jett Johnson mentioned after the Alabama game.

There's a lot of football to be played.

The Bulldogs need to focus on themselves, communicate better in the passing game and be in the right places defensively.

They need to execute more often.

If they do they'll find wellness in Nashville.

PARRISH ALFORD is the college sports editor and columnist for the Daily Journal. Contact him at parrish.alford@journalinc.com.

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