ATHENS — One year ago, Mississippi State’s win over Georgia was a turning point in each team’s season.
The Southeastern Conference’s two teams with Bulldogs nicknames face a similar crossroads game Saturday.
Georgia, attempting to recover from an 0-2 start that included a home loss to SEC East rival South Carolina, is looking for its third straight win. Mississippi State, coming off a shaky offensive showing in an overtime win over Louisiana State, will try for its first SEC win after two losses and its first win in Athens in more than 50 years.
The losing team will have little hope of being a factor in the SEC. The winner will have renewed hope of contending.
Georgia tight end Aron White said last year’s 24-12 loss at Mississippi State set the pace for a 6-7 season.
“Losing that game, it was really tough,” White said. “The locker room last year was probably the most pitiful scene you could think of. Everybody was just down.
“We were just in a bad place. It might have been something that was a turning point in our season and that’s not something we want to have happen again. We definitely were in a rut last season and that game could have defined our season.”
Mississippi State was only 1-2 last season before starting a six-game winning streak by beating Georgia. Coach Dan Mullen’s team finished 9-4 with a trip to the Gator Bowl.
“We’re coming into this year’s game very similar to how we came into last year’s game,” Mullen said.
“It’s an opportunity to really turn the season into a positive note, get it going in the right direction with our first SEC win.”
Mississippi State (2-2, 0-2 SEC) was impressive in scoring a combined 93 points in its first two games, a win over Memphis and a 41-34 loss to Auburn.
Mullen’s team lost 19-6 to LSU before surviving to beat Louisiana Tech 26-20 in overtime last week.
Injuries on the offensive line have slowed Mississippi State. Guard Tobias Smith was lost for the season with a knee injury in the LSU game. Two freshmen — left tackle Blaine Clausell and center Dillon Day — may start. Mullen said he may not pick his five starting linemen until Saturday.
Georgia coach Mark Richt says he still feels the pain from last year’s loss in Starkville, Miss. Georgia had an interception and touchdown catch called back due to penalties and tailback Washaun Ealey lost a fumble near the goal line.
“They earned it, certainly,” said Richt of Mississippi State. “It was a frustrating day. I’m not looking forward to another one like that.”
Added White: “It was a game we could have won but we killed ourselves. They showed up to play and we didn’t. Hopefully, we won’t have a repeat performance.”
Richt said the loss adds motivation to this year’s game.
“For me it does personally,” he said. “I don’t know if the players are looking at it that way, but I do.”
Richt’s players also remember the pain.
“I was very upset because I felt like we kind of gave them the game,” said tight end Orson Charles.
“Something I remember from that game last year is I was just very disappointed because I walked off the field knowing that we should have won that game and I felt like I could have done something better in order for Georgia to win.”
Georgia (2-2, 1-1) will try for its second straight win against a team from the state of Mississippi, following last week’s 27-13 victory at Ole Miss.
Freshman tailback Isaiah Crowell continued to emerge as Georgia’s new lead back as he set career highs with 30 carries for 147 yards against the Rebels.
This will be Georgia’s last home game before November. Georgia plays at Tennessee and at Vanderbilt the next two weeks.
“We have confidence right now,” Charles said. “We’re all on the bus. We’re starting to move slowly but surely. We’re starting to understand we just need to take one game at a time.
“Winning this game would be great for us in terms of knowing that our dreams and our hopes are still alive. I think that’s what we really need around here. Just beating Ole Miss last week, we’re seeing a lot more people smiling. We’re not used to seeing that and I want to keep that feeling.”
Mississippi State’s last win at Sanford Stadium came in 1956. Georgia has won its last eight home games in the series and most recently beat Mississippi State 27-24 in 2006.