Has Rick Ray Turned it Around?


Jan 7, 2015; Starkville, MS, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Rick Ray during the game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Humphrey Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

Not even a month ago most MSU fans were done with the Rick Ray era. The losses were pilling up and apathy was setting in. It’s hard to blame folks as the team looked lost against Tennessee and Florida to open SEC play. But in the last six games the Bulldogs have played like a much different team – a competitive one, that is 3-3 over that stretch.

The season started out as many had hoped: 5-0 and looking good. Then the bottom fell out losing six of seven including McNeese State, South Carolina Upstate and Arkansas State (who is currently 9-12). Despite the ray of hope that was the Florida State win, the Bulldogs were just plain bad against UF and UT.

Then something changed within the team. Coach Ray has gone from “he’s history” to “he’ll most likely be back next year” in the span of just three weeks. The team I’d hoped to have seen all year has shown up and could as easily be 6-0 over that stretch as 3-3.

Rick Ray admitted a few weeks ago that the team needed to focus more on offense. His tenure at MSU has been defined by defense – to the point of only focusing on defense during practice. The problem was the lack of offense, especially when good defense created offensive opportunities in transition and being unable to capitalize. After scoring just 47 points in each of their first two conference games, the Dawgs have averaged 70 over the last six.

The last few weeks have been aided by the emergence of several players. Craig Sword from injury, Gavin Ware and I.J. Ready. With the improved play among those three as well as solid contributions from the rest of the team, there has been marked improvement.

We can’t say for sure that Rick Ray has turned it around. Tomorrow night’s game at Tennessee is the mid-way point of the conference schedule, so there’s still a ways to go. The good news is this team seems to be getting their legs under them. The core of players who have been here for a while know what it takes to finish the year strong, so the Dawgs should be able to do just that. We’ll see how it goes, but it looks like Coach Ray has the program headed back in the right direction, which is especially impressive considering he was left for dead three weeks ago.