What was once a promising effort, this game turned into a microcosm of the way this season has gone for Mississippi State. The Bulldogs scored quick, fell behind, kept it close for the first half, then imploded in the second half. It was another game that seemed frustratingly winnable for a while, but then turned into another blowout. The same pattern played out against Bowling Green and Kentucky, only those teams were not quite good enough to take advantage of poor second-half performances from MSU and steal a win. A few takeaways are below. Look for more on this game from the FWtCT team over the next couple days.
- Dan Mullen continued his years-long trend of losing to higher-ranked teams while only beating teams MSU was expected to beat. A more complete performance may have taken some heat of Mullen, but the flat second half will only reinforce the notion that the team is stagnating. Things won't get much easier as MSU travels to Texas A&M next week before hosting No. 1 Alabama. Even though a win is unlikely, a full competitive game against one or both of those teams would be a good sign for the future of the program. Two more blowouts and the criticism will get louder for Mullen.
- MSU's turnover margin was considered one of team's better strengths going into today's game, but the Bulldogs' five turnovers kept MSU's defense in difficult situations. The turnovers also kept crucial points off the board for MSU, making it all the more difficult for State to get back into the game. Aside from the turnovers, it was actually a pretty good game for MSU. But those mistakes were the difference in MSU competing for a win and MSU fans tuning out by the beginning of the 4th quarter.
- On the bright side, MSU's special teams actually played pretty well today. Devon Bell had some quality punts, including a 62-yarder. It's still weird to see him punting over a Ray Guy award finalist, but MSU football is not always the most logical football. Also, Mullen took Bell off of FG duties after his ongoing struggled. The move payed off, with Evan Sobeisk hitting a 38-yard field goal in the second quarter.
- South Carolina did hit their fair share of deep passes, especially in the first quarter. If the secondary continues to struggle against the deep ball, it could be a long day next Saturday when they go up against A&M's Mike Evans, one of the best receivers in the country.
- Of course, the Bulldogs still need two more wins to reach bowl eligibility. Today's loss means they will more than likely have to beat both Arkansas and Ole Miss in the final two games of the season to make a bowl. In an inverse of last year's Egg Bowl, State will likely be playing for their post-season lives on Thanksgiving, barring a loss to Arkansas.
Stats from MSU-USC, via @sixpackspeak. MSU firmly better in all but one category: turnovers pic.twitter.com/YAa3VCWFvh— Bob Carskadon (@bobcarskadon) November 2, 2013