That was a good way to start off the season.
First, let's get this out of the way. Memphis is terrible. If they aren't the worst team in the FBS, they're in the pic...no, Memphis is the worst team in the nation. This couldn't have been a better opponent for the Bulldogs to open with. The 59-14 rout gives the Bulldogs confidence before a tough stretch against Auburn and LSU and a few manageable kinks for the coaches to iron out. Now, some notes:
I was pleased how James Carmon settled down after shaking free the jitters. After the dubious start, he performed well, especially blocking for the run. Carmon was able to bulldoze a few holes open for steady gains by Vick Ballard. His pass protection? So-so. Of course, as the season wears on, he'll develop.
You know who feels like an idiot after Carmon got his second false start in the first six plays? Blaine Clausell. This game was the perfect opportunity for him to get numerous reps against an inferior opponent. Unless Carmon abruptly falters against Auburn and LSU, I don't expect Clausell to play meaningful snaps until LaTech.
Speaking of blocking, kudos to Chris Smith for great block that helped spring Ballard for his 46-yard touchdown run.
That trip to Eugene, Ore., is paying off. Dan Mullen visited Oregon practices during the offseason to pick the brain of Chip Kelly and came back with tips on the Ducks' record-setting hurry up offense. Along with Mississippi State's size advantage, it exhausted the Tigers' defense as they tried to hustle back to position. In the second quarter, it paid huge dividends after Jameon Lewis made a freshman mistake of fielding a punt inside the Bulldog 5-yard line. The up tempo offense allowed Chris Relf to connect with Sam Williams for two strikes on consecutive plays. Memphis was lost on the second completion. Two plays later? Vick Ballard raced passed Memphis for a 66-yard touchdown.
Ballard is arguably the most dependable back Mississippi State has had since Jerious Norwood (for all his numbers, Anthony Dixon was frustrating to watch at times).
Nickoe Whitleymay kill someone by the end of the year. After every hit that drew an "Ohhhh," it was Whitley, standing up and dusting his jersey off as a Tiger wisely spent a few second in the fetal position. I appreciate the head-hunting more than anyone, but he missed on wrapping up a guy or two by just flying around. Hopefully Coach Chris Wilson and Coach Tony Hughes can corral him in.
Jameon Lewis...wow. He is already a special player. His pinball moves on his first touchdown pass from Russell was amazing. Just when you thought a Tiger nabbed him, he snuck out of it. And don't get me started on his speed. That dump pass from Russell that Lewis turned into an 80-yard touchdown? No telling what Mullen has cooking up for him. On the flip side, his decisions on special teams were maddening. If those laps of judgment happen in the Southeastern Conference, Mississippi State isn't going to be able to slip out of their own 3-yard line against LSU as easily as they did Memphis. Until he learns his placement, give me Johnthan Banks or Chad Bumphis in the return game.
He wasn't lying! Tyler Russelldid get some wheels during the offseason! Russell's 26-yard touchdown run was one of my favorite moments of the night. You could tell he was thrilled with how he got that score. Russell put up decent numbers in the passing stat line, too (which was largely influenced by Lewis' 80-yard touchdown run). He's getting "it."
Kudos to Arceto Clarkon career high 72-receiving yards and a touchdown. Clark's seasoning will be a valuable asset for the receiving unit as we creep further into the season. I guess Croom was right...he truly is a secret weapon. /I will use this joke a million times until Clark's eligibility is up.
Towards the end of the game, it was great to see Dillon Day, Damien Robinson (he's a big boy) and some of the other underclassmen take direction with Russell handling the reins. Very promising from the future.