In what can definitely be called a tale of two completely different halves, Mississippi State came out of the locker room after halftime on Saturday and put 3 TD's on the board to put away a pesky UAB team en route to a 21-3 victory. The first half however was far from constructive or productive as the Dogs found themselves unable to put together drives or capitalize in key 3rd down situations. Read the For Whom the Cowbell Tolls Armchair Fanalysis of the UAB game after the jump.
The Good: No doubt State fans were frustrated with the offensive execution they witnessed from the Maroon & White in the first half Saturday. The second half could not have been more different however as the Bulldogs, led by Sophomore QB Tyler Russell, put on an aerial display the likes of which Bulldog fans haven't seen in some time to pull away from the Blazers and bring home the victory. In an easy decision for me, the Good from Saturday's game has to be the play of young Tyler Russell. A young man who may have been more criticized and discussed than any other QB at State since I can remember came out and showed State fans what we've all expected from him since he stepped foot on campus in August of 2009. Tyler made good decisions in the pocket, rifled balls into receivers and made the big plays that had been lacking in the offense since the opener against hapless Memphis. Without being critical of Bulldog senior Chris Relf, it seems like this offense flows better with Tyler Russell at the helm. That being said, we've only seen one game with Tyler, one half really. His big test will come this Saturday against a good South Carolina defense. I don't know who the coaches will go with Saturday or if they'll split time between the two QB's, but one thing's for certain, Tyler erased a ton of Bulldog fan frustration in just 30 minutes Saturday at Legion Field. It's hard not to wonder if Tyler Russell is showing State fans that his time is now and not 2012.
The Bad: The first half offense. Watching this offense operate since the Auburn game reminds me of that scene in Home Alone where he sees the picture of Buzz's girlfriend. Thats what watching this offense has been like for the last month or so.
Buzz, your girlfriend, WOOF! (via bs0l)
It's hard to pinpoint one main cause of this offenses woes, but whatever the problem may be, it is glaring six games into the year. The patchwork offensive line held up quite well Saturday, but even so the offense could not find any rhythm and was shut out in the first half for the second game in a row. No offense to the Blazers but the Bulldogs felt like this was a game in which some of the offensive demons of 2011 could be exercised, and State was completely unable to do so in the first half. I trust in the coaching staff's ability to pick the right QB to lead this team onward, but if Chris Relf continues to be our starter, he has got to sharpen his skills and make some of the plays we saw him make in 2010 that made us trust in him.
The Upcoming: #13 South Carolina, Saturday, October 15th, 11:21a.m. kickoff, SEC Network
That second half performance against UAB could not have come at a better time for State because this team dives head first back into conference play this weekend with a tilt versus the Gamecocks of South Carolina. South Carolina has been quite an interesting team to follow so far this year. Loaded with talent, the Gamecocks have strolled mostly through their schedule minus a loss to Auburn at home. Outside of the enigma that is Stephen Garcia, this offense is clearly loaded with weapons featuring in my opinion the SEC's best RB in Marcus Lattimore and the SEC's best WR in Alshon Jeffrey. The key for South Carolina will be finding a man to get Jeffrey and Lattimore the pigskin, which for now that task falls on the shoulders of Connor Shaw. From the small bit I've seen of Connor he seems talented yet young, and it will be interesting to see how he handles himself in what should be a somewhat sleepy yet boisterous crowd Saturday at Scott Field. The key for State will be to hopefully build off the offensive momentum they gained in Birmingham Saturday and for the defense to continue to play well. Excluding parts of the first half against Georgia and like 3 plays against La Tech, this defense has quietly improved game after game since giving up 41 to Auburn. If Coach Wilson has them ready and they can play a solid game on Saturday, I like State's chances of coming away with a victory. If they can get that whole who's gonna start at QB thing figured out between now and then
Breakdowns of the UAB game:
Official Statistics from Saturday's 21-3 Victory
And for all things South Carolina this week, be sure to follow our SBNation brethren over at Garnet and Black Attack