The hardest lesson: how to win

You hear coaches all the time use the phrase about “learning how to win.”

They use it because it is a fact of football life. There are about three or four game-turning plays that decide every close game. A team must learn how to make those plays.

 

You can see it in practice with Mississippi’s three Division bowl division football teams this season.

 

Mississipi State, under Dan Mullen, is a seasoned, well-drilled team that expects to win, as the Bulldogs did for the eighth straight time over two seasons Saturday night. State went through the process of learning how to win in Mullen’s first season. There were some painful lessons early you may recall. The Bulldogs had to get over the hump, which they did. The ooze that hard-earned confidence these days.

 

We are seeing the same process at Ole Miss currently with Hugh Freeze’s first team. The Rebels may well have gotten over that hump Saturday with the big victory over Auburn, a team that seemingly has forgotten how to win. Freeze’s first club, as Mullen’s before, has played hard and with purpose from the get-go and was rewarded for the first time in the SEC Saturday.

 

As for USM, the deal now is learning to win without Austin Davis. USM lost a four-year starter and star at quarterback, a truly outstanding player and a winner. After a game of musical quarterbacks early in the season, the Eagles apparently have put the ball in the hands of true freshman Anthony Alford. He showed flashes of why he was Mr. Football in Mississippi against UCF when USM, a 17-point road underdog, played UCF into overtime before losing. He is going to be a really, really good player.

 

But first, he must learn to win at this level.

 

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