Mississippi State hopes to put together 2 good halves against UMass
FOXBOROUGH >> Half a game hasn't been enough for Mississippi State so far this season.
It might be on Saturday against Massachusetts.
The Bulldogs (1-2) have yet to put together four good quarters in any of their games — none more disappointing than last week, when they fell behind 20-0 to No. 20 LSU before rallying in the second half only to lose 23-20.
"We're capable of playing really good halves of football," linebacker Richie Brown said. "We have a young team and a lot of talent capable of outscoring 17-0 a team like LSU. So we've seen what we're capable of. We just have to put it together in one game now."
It's been a problem for the Bulldogs, who led South Alabama 17-0 at halftime in their opener but lost 21-20. Against South Carolina, Mississippi State led 24-0 at halftime before holding on for a 27-14 win.
"It's been first and second; second and first," coach Dan Mullen said. "Every game seems to be different. ... We've played some really good halves of football and then through whatever different circumstances, we played a poorer other half of football."
UMass (1-2) put a minor scare into then-No. 25 Florida, trailing by just three at the half before losing 24-7, but then gave Boston College its first win in almost a year. The Minutemen beat Florida International last week with a late score that thwarted a Golden Panthers comeback attempt.
It will be the second of three games against Southeastern Conference teams for UMass, an independent.
Here are some other things to look for Saturday's game:
QB DECISION: Nick Fitzgerald is still listed as Mississippi State's quarterback despite the fact that backup Damian Williams led the Bulldogs on two fourth-quarter touchdown drives in the team's loss to LSU last weekend. Fitzgerald leads the Bulldogs with 298 yards passing and 219 yards rushing this season, but Williams has thrown for 237 yards and has a much higher completion percentage (69.4 percent) than Fitzgerald (55.4).
AND THE HOSTS: Andrew Ford threw for three touchdowns and 278 yards against FIU in his debut. A transfer from Virginia Tech, Ford backed up sophomore Ross Comis in the first two games; Comis was out with an unspecified injury and coach Mark Whipple wouldn't say this week who would start against the Bulldogs.
MULLEN'S HOMECOMING: Mississippi State's trip to Gillette Stadium will bring Mullen close to his home. The 8th-year Bulldogs' coach grew up in New Hampshire. Mullen said he's disappointed the Boston Red Sox are on the road this weekend because he'd like to "stick around a little bit and catch a Sox game real quick to see Big Papi one more time."
RARE TRIP TO THE NORTHEAST: Mississippi State will be playing a game in the northeast for the first time since beating Syracuse 24-17 in 1986. This is the first meeting between the two programs. UMass is scheduled to make return trips to Starkville in 2017 and 2020.
RUNNING STRONG: UMass running back Marquis Young reached the career 1,000-yard rushing mark in only 13 career games. He is the first Minuteman back to reach the milestone since the school joined the FBS in 2012.