BEAR DOWN!!!! That has to go down as one of the Top 5 Egg Bowls. Outstanding game. Virtually nothing is sweeter to MSU fans than beating "Mississippi." And to do it in OT, to get bowl eligible and go to a 4th straight bowl for the first time in school history.....HUGE. I just don't even have words for how big a win it was for the program. All that said, here's how I saw it:
1. Defense can be summed up in one word: Spectacular. These guys brought it last night. Best game of the season for this unit, and that includes the way they shut down Bama. Every unit was in sync. Absolutely outstanding heart, guts, physicality. Don't have enough adjectives to praise the way these guys played.
2. MAYHEM III: For the third game in a row, D forced multiple turnovers. 4, to be specific. And had 2 left on the field due to failure to review (I'll get to that later). 8 TFLs. 2 sacks. Multiple QB hurries. Multiple PBUs.
3. Tackling: I told someone before the game that tackling would be a BIG key to this game. And boy, was it. We had by far our best tackling game of the night. We were physical, wrapped up, and got them on the ground. It was a beautiful thing to watch.
4. Nickoe Whitley: I take back every bad thing I ever said. Apparently the guy has been playing on one leg since mid-season, putting off surgery to be out there for the team. And for the second week in a row, he makes the play of the game, stripping Bo Boy at the 5 in OT to prevent a game tying score. That play is going to be immortalized in MSU & Egg Bowl lore alongside great plays like The Catch, The Pick, and The Kick in 1999 or DP's punt return in '07. He also recorded his 16th INT. Helmet sticker? Try 5. Best of luck at the next level, sir.
5. Chris Jones: WMD now has a new favorite player alongside Dak & Kendrick Market. Special doesn't even begin to describe this kid. He's just a freak of nature. 5 tackles. 2 sacks. 2 QB hurries. 1 PBU. And he absolutely stoned Big Kimdeechee at RB, wrapping him up, and driving him backwards. One of my favorite plays all night. But best of all, he throws up the landshark after his first sack. Somewhere Pernell McPhee was smiling. I propose we just start calling CJ "The Freak" going forward. 3 helmet stickers for him.
6. Taveze Calhoun: After inexplicably being everyone's favorite whipping boy in the secondary earlier in the year, he has come on strong the last few weeks and really shown why Johnthan Banks said he'd be the next great MSU CB. He led all tacklers for MSU with 9 last night. And he was PHYSICAL at the point of attack, constantly blowing up the bubble screen that the Bears love. He also had arguably my favorite tackle of the night when he suplexed a Bear WR. Helmet sticker well earned.
7. Jamerson Love gets a helmet sticker for grabbing the strip in OT and running it out the back. Smart play to end it as opposed to trying to return it.
8. Helmet sticker for Kendrick Market. He was second in tackles last night with 5. So much for being a guy we signed just to get Snoop Brassell, as every Mississippi fan I know told me.
9. Richie Brown's INT was karmic justice. Wonder if Freezus still fears for his soul at MSU?
10. The front 7 was absolutely stone cold all night. They shut down the run and forced the Bears into being one dimensional.
11. The Bears came into the game averaging 468 YPG. We held them to 296 in regulation, 316 for the game. For the stat nerds, that's well over 150 below their average for regulation and just over 150 for the entire game. We also held them to 8-20 on 3rd down, again below their season average.
12. The 4 turnovers were huge. I know that's John Correrro Obvious, but the more you can keep the Black Bear offense on the sidelines, the better. Giving extra possessions to your offense is critical.
13. We contained the big play and completely shut down Moncrief and Treadwell. They hit the one long play when they used our very own WR throwback, but that was it all night.
14. Another one of the big keys: Holding the Bears to a FG on the opening drive of the second half. That kept us in the game and gave us a chance to regain momentum. It should also be noted that FG was the ONLY points the Bear offense got all night.
1. This unit was an absolute abortion. There's just no way around it. I can't imagine how good we'd be if our "Special" Teams were actually equivalent to a CUSA school, much less legitimately SEC good. More on this later.
2. Tubby Lewis fielding the punt at the 5 right before halftime was awful. And it led to.....
3. Bad snap. Blocked punt. Bears recover for a TD. Did anyone NOT see that coming? And once aGAIN, we found a way to give up points right before the half and kill all momentum. What's really frustrating is that it wasn't the D, like it has been the rest of the season.
1. Damian Williams was GOOD. He only made the one bad play all night, forcing a ball into double coverage instead of throwing it away. But that's a freshman mistake and correctable. He was on target all night, but the WRs were dropping everything. I remember at least 5 dropped passes while he was in the game. I don't think he struggles throwing a catchable ball, so right now I'm thinking it's more unfamiliarity between he and the WRs. He looked good running the ball, wish he'd do it a little more. Looked very good running the speed option and made good pitch/keep decisions. Best of all, he didn't LOOK like a freshman from a body language standpoint. You could tell he was confident and felt he belonged out there. The situation wasn't too big for him, he wasn't overly excited, didn't get rattled when the Bears got pressure. As I think most of us expected, we probably wouldn't have won if he'd stayed in the game, but he kept us in it and managed it well until we put in Dak.
2. Dak Attack: A legend was born last night, peeps. Dak pulled us out of the fire. This is clearly his team and his offense. He made some big plays in the passing game, then did his usual thing on 4th and 2 in OT, punching it in from 4 yards away to give us the go ahead, and eventually winning, score. I love the way he managed the 2-minute offense at the end to get us into FG, too. It just sucks that we don't have a kicker. Another thing I love: The first thing Dak did when he got the Golden Egg was make a beeline to TR and let him celebrate with it. Classy.
3. I wasn't a huge fan of our gameplan. We threw is 39 times. That's absurd for this team. Run. The. Damn. Football. And don't even get me started on the 4 straight passes to start the second half.
4. JRob: 7 carries, 38 yards. 5.4 YPC. 1 TD. I repeat - it's a crime he doesn't get 15+ carries a game. The Bears would have been sick of tackling him if we'd given it to him 20 times last night. They were already having problems after just 7 carries. He's clearly our best RB right now. Feed the Beast.
5. Perk: 12 carries, 5 yards. .4 YPC. I want to hurl after seeing and typing that. He also missed the block on Gross early and caused Williams to get sacked.
6. Tubby Lewis continues to be our best WR. He's great at getting open quickly.
7. Our WRs have got to learn how to catch the ball. A TON of drops last night. I know it was cold, but you gotta make the play when your QB hits you in the hands. Very disappointed in the group on the whole last night.
8. MoJo has been one of my biggest disappointments this season. He's been very uninvolved and made mistakes when he has been involved. His fumble last night was almost a disaster. We got lucky it went out of bounds. But he HAS to secure the ball better. Waving it around like a loaf of bread is asking for it to get stripped. High and tight, MoJo. That's how you carry a football.
10. I love RoJo. The man is just flat physical at WR. He needs more touches in possession situations.
11. Bear Wilson is going to be very good for us sooner rather than later. He doesn't look like a guy in only his 2nd year ever of football. Love his physical play and will to fight for the ball. He makes some of your typical freshman mistakes, but those are correctable. My only big gripe was dropping the pass when he was wide open in space, because that would've been a big gain if he uses his hands and catches it cleanly. But then he comes back and made some HUGE catches down the stretch to move the chains for us. Big future for this kid.
13. Overall our OL held up pretty well. Mississippi is good up front and got some pressure at times. I was very disappointed in our lack of consistent push in the run game, though. But part of that goes back to throwing the ball 39 times. The good news is we got push when it mattered. That said....
14. I thought Beckwith and Siddoway got handled last night. I can excuse Siddoway, because he's out there with a bad back. And frankly, we don't have anyone else because Damien Robinson is one of the biggest busts in school history so far. Plus, Siddoway has been mostly solid this year despite the bad back. But when it comes to Beckwith, I'm less forgiving. Yes, I know he's a walk-on who should be backing up Malone. And he's certainly better than your average walk-on. But so far as I'm concerned, it's time to put Jamaal Clayborn at RG. He's already as good or better than Beckwith and won't do anything but improve with PT and practice reps. He'd have held up better against Gross and Big Kimdeechee, because he has quicker feet than Beckwith.
15. Pre-Snap Penalties: Only 1 all night, but it was a bad one. Still, we've dramatically improved at this over the course of the season.
1. Did I mention our STs are an abortion? And that our offensive gameplan sucked? That said, Mullen coached with some real fire. And he showed some serious grapefruits going for it on 4th and 2 in OT, although that was partially because we have no faith in our kickers. I LOVED seeing him pumping up the crowd on the last defensive stand in the 4th. Say whatever you want, the guy can coach. And oh by the way, he's 4-1 against the Bears.
2. If I'm Scott Stricklin, I have one non-negotiable demand for Mullen in the offseason: Give up STs and hire a real ST coach. We can move Sallach back to an administrative role to get that done. But it HAS to happen.
3. Time to pony up the cash to lock up Geoff Collins. It took a little time, but the D has come together the last 6 weeks. There were various reasons for that like injuries, youth, and inexperience. But his side of the ball has emerged over the last 5 games as the unit I expected them to be all along, capable of shutting down anyone. Make it happen, Strick. We don't need another Manny Diaz situation.
4. The Commercialtron is awful. At least we didn't play that turrable Mercedes Benz ad. And for the love of all things maroon, is it REALLY too much to ask that we sync our highlights from past great games to match the opponent? In other words, we were playing Mississippi. EVERY clip shown should have been from a past Egg Bowl. Instead, we get an Auburn clip. Same for Bama, Auburn, etc. Every clip should involve the opponent we're playing. Period.
5. The team played with serious heart and guts last night. Blocked punt? They kept fighting. Missed FG? They kept fighting. OT? They stepped up. We've seen this team grow up right before our eyes over the course of the year. In games past, the 2 ST screw ups would've caused us to collapse. Instead, we've developed a mental toughness to overcome those mistakes.
6. I knew last night was going to be different during the DPR. The whole team was halfway out on the field and INTO IT. The body language was outstanding.
7. Peeps, you were AMAZING last night. The stadium was full and electric. Much better job of being quiet when we're on offense, but also still plenty of room for improvement. Hats off to the students for getting back to the game, too. It made a HUGE difference down the stretch. And it was an awesome atmosphere for the recruits. I don't know how any of them could've walked away from that game unimpressed.
8. Huddites: Feel free to STFU now. We've improved over the course of the season, as young, talented, well coached teams usually do. And we did it while suffering through a ridiculous amount of injuries.
9. WMD is giddy about the future of the QB position.
10. I don't think I've really complained about the refs all season. Honestly, I think we've gotten a pretty fair shake for the most part. And I hate to complain about them after a win, but last night's crew would've made Vince McMahon and the WWE proud. They were there to make sure we jobbed to the Bears. I've never seen so many insane no calls or 2 turnovers not reviewed. And the personal foul on Nickoe for a "late hit" on Bo Boy was bogus, considering Bo initiated the contact.
11. Hugh Freeze: Man of Morals. He puts in Big Kimdeechee at RB wearing #5. Problem is, Mathers already wears #5 and plays RB. Per NCAA Rules, that should have resulted in a 15 yard personal foul and an ejection for Big Kimdeechee as the offending player. And they got away with it THREE TIMES! How does that happen?! Not only that, they change Kimdeechee's number at the half because they knew what they'd done. You'd think a man of such high character and strong values as Freezus would've self-reported the rules violation to the officials and voluntary forced Kimdeechee to sit out. I mean, he's already asked for anyone with proof of a Mississippi recruiting violation to email him and compliance to report it.
12. Not only did this win guarantee us a 4th straight bowl, it means we finished ahead of the "resurgent" Bears in the West. The Bears are having to face a harsh reality this morning: Little Brother is all grown up and now he's 4 inches taller and 50 LBs heavier. I suggest some of our fans need to realize this, too. We're no longer "poor ol' State" playing second fiddle to the Bears.
13. WMD is gassed. Didn't get in until after 2, in bed after 230, then woke up before 7 because I was still so wound up from the game.
14. WMD is going to give the Bears hell this year. They've run their mouths all season about how great they are. Payback is coming, and it's going to be glorious. I suggest you join in.
That's how I saw it. Y'all know the drill. See ya at the bowl game and we'll do this aGAIN 1 more time this season.
In Mullen We Trust,