At halftime Saturday night, I was feeling good about our chances to blow out the Troy Trojans, and coasting into a 3-0 start. But as my lifelong MSU fanhood should have taught me, it's never over until it's over, and State certainly played the same way. However, despite playing a horrendous second half of football - one plagued by dropped passes and a Troy running game that gashed our front 7 - State still managed to survive and win the game 30-24.
Before we move on, here are my 10 thoughts on the good and the bad from Saturday's victory just south of Montgomery.
01. "Shouldn't have had that popcorn before I played"
7- the name of a creepy but pretty awesome movie starring Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey and Morgan Freeman. 7- also the amount of dropped passes State had Saturday night. Just one game after I sat in awe at the Auburn game wondering who this receiving corps was, they reminded that they do still have the dropsies from time to time. State dropped two sure TD passes, which is obviously frustrating for Russell and fans alike. The good news? Dropped passes is a correctable error, and I can imagine Mullen will have these guys catching balls all week this week as they prepare for South Alabama.
02. Russell setting the pace
Tyler Russell, through three games, is averaging 217 yards per game through the air. That pace, if continued through the season, would be good for second all time, and would give Russell just over 2,600 yards on the season. Tyler looked good again Saturday night, even if his receivers did not the entire game. He made good passes and made it his third game to open the year without an INT. Russell is also on pace for 32 TD passes this season, which would DOUBLE the previous record, held by Derrick Tate (1996).
03. Thank you, LaDarius
Coming into the year, I was a bit concerned about how consistent our running back play would be after the graduation of Vick Ballard to the NFL. So far this season, though, the running back's have showed there is plenty of talent left in our backfield, even if it is more by committee this season. Saturday night, however, there was no committee, only LaDarius Perkins, and that was all that State would need. Perkins shouldered the load for State, putting together a 179 yard, 1 TD game, where he was the only consistent thing State had going for them the entire night. Last year I thought of LaDarius more as a finesse runner, but this year he has already tallied a couple of TD's where he shed multiple tacklers. That's impressive, and a big year from Perkins would go a long way to create a healthy balance with Russell's passing game.
Okay so yeah that's a trolling headline, and no, I don't think Slay is better than Johnthan. But you must admit that Darius is making a name for himself, collecting his third and fourth INTs of the season Saturday night versus Troy. Slay will most likely get more balls thrown his way through the rest of the season due to QBs shying away from Banks' side of the field, and I would expect him to continue to take advantage of it. State still played very soft coverage Saturday which just irritates the pee out of me sometimes, but there's no doubt that Banks and Slay are one of the best duos if not the best duo of cornerbacks in the SEC.
05. What's wrong with the defensive front 7?
The biggest concern for me coming way from Saturday was the front seven on defense, and just how porous they were against the running game of Troy. It appeared that the fast paced offense had our guys gasping for air, and we never could get caught up and make our substitutions like we usually do. Couple the fast paced offense of Troy with the fact that State's offense stayed off the field as much as possible in the second half, and you have a formula for a worn out defensive front. That accounts for a lot of State's inability to stop the run Saturday, but it's still disconcerting to see just how huge the holes were for RB Shawn Southward of Troy. If State wants to be successful going forward in SEC play, they need to shore up the running game defense up front.
06. Who's offense is this?
Most of you guys are probably like me - trying to figure out how that dagburn QB can throw that dagburn ball vertically down the field like that! I thought that was illegal! Some kind of wizardry or black magic, I tell ya! It is so weird for State to possess a solid vertical passing game, but we do now, by all appearances. Even despite the dropsies State's receiving corps had Saturday, we still lit up the scoreboard with some big plays, including two (2!) passing touchdowns to Chad Bumphis of 50+ yards (with a third over 20+ yards).
07. Place Kicking Struggles
Insert worries from the previous week here. Sure we finally tallied a made FG Saturday, but we also doinked an extra point. This is not a huge concern to me because we still have two games to go before an anticipated close matchup, so hopefully Dan and Devon Bell can get things worked out before the Tennessee game. If we need a FG to beat South Alabama or Kentucky in our next two games, we would have much bigger worries than missing field goals.
08. Tobias Hurt?
When it was announced Saturday that Justin Malone would start over Tobias Smith at RG, I was not worried, I just assumed Dan was getting Malone some reps. But a lack of a Tobias sighting the entire game got me concerned that Smith may be yet again injured. Mullen did list Smith as "questionable to probable" for this weekend's game against South Alabama, so it makes me think he had some issues late last week to where they thought it best to hold him out to prevent potential further injury. Here's to hoping Smith can remain injury free the rest of the season, he's already had to deal with his fair share of them in his career.
09. Quiet Green
Put out an APB for 6th year Senior TE Marcus Green, who was a complete non-factor in Saturday's win over Troy. Green had a TD catch in each of the first two games, and was coming off a big week against Auburn where he caught two. I don't remember hearing his name, seeing him targeted, or anything Saturday. Game's like Troy and South Alabama won't rely on Green's contributions, but when SEC season gets into full swing, State is going to need everything they can get from him.
10. Matte Finish Helmets Are The Best
There's no reason why we shouldn't be wearing those in every game. I love them