Mississippi State sees itself in Vandy Print
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Friday, 10 October 2008 11:13
NCAAF Headline News

 JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -Coach Sylvester Croom spliced together Mississippi State's greatest hits of 2007 to inspire his team this week.
The Bulldogs' eight-win breakthrough was a thumbs-up performance, full of big plays and poignant moments. Croom hopes the film inspires more than nostalgia as Mississippi State prepares to host No. 13 Vanderbilt in a game he thinks could turn around the Bulldogs' dismal season.
``We just watched the way that we ran around to the ball on defense and stopped the run,'' linebacker K.J. Wright said. ``We just want to get that swagger back that we had.''
The struggling Bulldogs don't have to look far to find that lost mojo. Vanderbilt has clearly stolen it, using interceptions, goal-line stands and grit to go 5-0.
id since 1982 with a win in Starkville.
Those themes sound awfully familiar to Croom.
``They just know how to win,'' Croom said. ``They've done a very good job of selling their players on it. I've got to do a better job of selling ours on it.''
Off to a disheartening 1-4 start, the Bulldogs (0-2 SEC) seem to be buying in finally. Croom said the team's slow start can be attributed to many things, including a lack of leadership, injuries and offseason incidents that robbed the team of a pair of key starters.
The team showed signs of renewed vigor in a 34-24 loss to LSU and an off week has players feeling frisky. Nope, these Bulldogs aren't ready to roll over just yet.
``It's a shock-the-world type attitude we've got over here, you know what I'm saying,'' tailback Anthony Dixon said. ``We're just going to take care of business. We're at home, they're coming to our home. We feel like they're in trouble.''
Vanderbilt players have heard this all before, of course. Long the conference's easy win, the Commodores say they don't need to be given respect when they can now go out and earn it.
``Everybody can say what they want to say and that's OK,'' wide receiver George Smith said. ``Let them think what they want to think. I think we're proving what kind of team we are on Saturday.''
the SEC in team offense, 10th in team defense and are 116th out of 119 teams nationally with an average of 96 yards passing per game. Only the option-oriented service academies pass for less.
Yet Vanderbilt has been unbeatable so far because they are tops in a few categories that count more than the others. The Commodores are No. 1 in the nation in turnover margin (plus 9) and No. 2 in interceptions (11). They're also tops in the conference in sacks (16) and penalties with 16 - 12 fewer than any other team.
More importantly, they've given up one second-half touchdown and are outscoring opponents 58-10 in the final two quarters.
``Those are the stats that are important,'' Croom said. ``That's what they do. They don't beat themselves. They play for 60 minutes. They don't ever quit on themselves and I think they just keep coming and keep coming and keep coming. And they win games.''
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AP sports writer Teresa Walker in Nashville contributed to this report.
 

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