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Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Mississippi State season review

By staff

Posted by's Chris Low

The fall was a steep one, and Sylvester Croom landed hard.

A year removed from leading Mississippi State to a Liberty Bowl victory, getting a big raise and earning SEC Coach of the Year honors, Croom found himself out of a job.

On the heels of an embarrassing season-ending 45-0 loss to Ole Miss, Croom resigned after new Mississippi State athletic director Greg Byrne informed him that he was going in another direction.

It was a dismal season for the Bulldogs (4-8, 2-6 SEC) and one in which everything that could go wrong did. They lost left offensive tackle Michael Brown before the season started when he was dismissed because of a handgun incident on campus.

Star safety Derek Pegues was suspended for the first game for violating the class attendance policy, and the Bulldogs were upset by Louisiana Tech.

It was a sign of things to come, and in a trend that plagued Croom's five-year tenure in Starkville, Mississippi State struggled to find any offense. The Bulldogs finished 113th nationally in total offense and 115th in scoring offense. They were 100th or worse in total offense in all five of Croom's seasons as coach.

Wesley Carroll started the season at quarterback, but soon gave way to Tyson Lee. The Bulldogs finished with an SEC-low 23 touchdowns, and even the defense dropped off this season to 11th in the SEC. They lost All-SEC middle linebacker Jamar Chaney in the first game to a broken leg.

Offensive MVP: About the only thing Mississippi State could count on offensively this season was junior running back Anthony Dixon. The 240-pound battering ram led the Bulldogs in rushing with 869 yards and scored nine touchdowns. He also had 20 receptions.

Defensive MVP: Senior Dominic Douglas, moving over to middle linebacker in place of the injured Chaney, more than answered the call. Douglas led the SEC with 116 total tackles, including 5.5 tackles for loss. He also had an interception and forced a fumble.

Turning point: The season-opening 22-14 loss to Louisiana Tech set the tone for the entire season. The Bulldogs turned the ball over five times, including three interceptions by Carroll, and blew a 14-3 lead. They never fully recovered, and things only went downhill from there.

What's next: Former Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen was introduced on Dec. 18 as Mississippi State's new head coach. Byrne wanted an offensive guy and liked Mullen's pedigree. Mullen wants to run the same spread offense he ran at Florida, but recruiting to that system will be paramount if he's going to be successful in one of the SEC's toughest jobs.