Peeps, that was brutal. I'd be lying if I said I was anything other than a combination of pissed off, frustrated, and disappointed. And to be totally honest, if you came here hoping for answers, you have probably come to the wrong place. I can go through the "what" happened and the "how" it happened all day. But the fact is, I have no clue as to the "why" it happened. Regardless, it did happen. Here's what I saw:
1. Defense basically never made the trip from Starkville. They lacked intensity all night. Our run D was repeatedly gashed by a scatback who wouldn't start for another SEC school not named Vandy. And our pass D reverted to its' UAB form.
2. Our tackling was awful. We didn't wrap up and kept trying to knock guys down or arm tackle. The Bears' offensive skill guys are too good for that.
3. Our DL got whipped at the point of attack all night. We generated almost no pressure on Bo Dirt. And they opened lanes you could've driven a tractor trailer through in the run game. We couldn't even make Big Softie Tunsil come up "hurt" like he does against every good team he faces. Just a pathetic effort from our DL.
4. Losing Kendrick Market was a killer. He was responsible for Engram on the first long play TSUN hit, but he blew out his Achilles and fell down, leaving Engram wide open. And after that, you don't have his experience or toughness back there. Market may not have the measurable or eye-popping stats, but he's one of those guys that quietly does his job very well. Deontae Evans and Kivon Coman just aren't ready yet.
5. Geoff Collins' gameplan was garbage. Yes, losing Market hurt. But Market on Engram is still a mismatch in favor of TSUN. Anyone not named Matt Wells covering Engram should never have been an option. He's the only guy we have with the size and speed to match up physically with a freak like Engram. And don't get me started on all the corner blitz calls. It's the worst play call in all of football.
6. Kivon Coman took out Chris Jones. Hope it's nothing serious, but he was certainly very ginger walking off the field.
7. Our LBs are about the only unit I have anything good to say for them. They missed some tackles, but for the most part they were the only group in position and making any sort of play on the ball.
8. The 1B unit got abused. Example of Collins being garbage last night and 1B's getting abused: We had just scored to cut the lead in either the late 3rd or early 4th quarter. We're back in the game and have some momentum, but need a quick stop. Naturally, Collins runs the 1B unit onto the field. Then he makes it worse by having Zach Jackson "cover" Engram. To say Engram abused Jackson is an insult to all the players who have abused Jackson all season. He absolutely embarrassed Jackson. If we have to watch Jackson be the replacement for Wells next season, I'll be hurling a lot. He's a strugglefest.
9. We gave up way too many big plays. The backbreaker was the 91-yard TD run. We had the play sniffed out and looked like we had Walton bottled up. He reverses field, we over-pursue, miss a tackle, Coman takes out Jones, and is off to the races. I'd be willing to bet TSUN got about 80+% of their yardage on approximately 10 plays.
10. No one on the D gets any credit for playing well after that garbage. What they all need is a good chewing and a hell day of suicides and gassers.
1. Our "strategy" of trying to hang the KO high and tackle the KOR guy before he reaches the 25 came back to bite us firmly in the arse aGAIN. It isn't worth 5 damn yards to gamble on kicking it to the other teams' return specialist. They're making us pay for it and flipping field position. And that goes double when the other team has a guy who is their all time KOR Yards leader back deep. Mullen is a complete idiot when it comes to STs.
2. Just when I start to feel comfortable with Sobiesk and he hits one from 46, he turns around and misses a 34 yard chipshot. Just another game for MSU FG kickers.
3. Devon Bell had a couple of really nice bombs to flip field position and pin TSUN deep. Unfortunately, he had more shanks and wobblers that gave them great field position. Why can't Logan Cooke get a chance?
4. Our return guys suck. I'm sick of talking about it. At least Fred Ross can catch a punt. Can we hire a real ST coach yesterday?
1. Our OL got absolutely mauled in the first half and on key drives in the second half. It was pathetic. And we killed a couple of promising drives with fast starts. Most telling was that we only averaged 3.5 YPC as a team. TSUN sold out to clog the middle and we never adjusted.
2. Our WRs came to play. There were a couple of drops, but that's the nature of the position. Overall, they played about as well as we could have asked. They ran good routes, got plenty of RAC, and were physical run blocking. Hats off to those guys.
3. J-Rob had a poor day. He had a couple of nice runs, but never really seemed to get going. I wonder if he tweaked a knee early in the game. There was one play where a BearShark had him by the leg, then another one hit him high, forcing him backward. J-Rob went one way, J-Rob's knee went the other. We didn't see him for about 2-3 series after that play. He finished the game with just 12 carries. Completely unacceptable. That's a bare minimum of 6-8 too few.
4. Dak's numbers were good, but I didn't think he played particularly well. His completion percentage was basically 60% and he accounted for both of our TDs. But he stared down WRs, overthrew them, underthrew them, ran into sacks,etc. And I thought in the first half especially, he was too eager to pull down the ball and run instead of trying to give the play a chance to develop.
5. Ashton Shumpert is really developing. He was our best RB yesterday. He ran hard and went downfield. And he finally showed me enough speed to think he can handle a bigger role. I'm still mad we didn't give him more short yardage and goal line touches.
6. Bear Wilson continues to come up big in big games. He was hammering TSUN DBs run blocking. And his TD grab was really good. Used his height and strength to just out-fight the CB for the ball.
7. Fred Ross has quickly developed into one of Dak's favorite targets, and you can see why. He's big and fast with great hands. He runs great routes and gets himself open.
8. I've seen a lot of talk bashing the offense and blaming them for the loss. I get the frustration, as the offense was far from perfect last night. But I can't get on board with that theory. They did enough to win if the D doesn't give up so many big plays and cheap TDs.
1. I'm a Dan Mullen fan. I don't want him fired. He's developed the program and taken us to heights we've never been this season. But he was terrible yesterday. It's like he decided to re-use the Bama game plan. And just like Bama, it didn't work. Horrendous play calling by him all day. After the first 3-4 attempts to run Dak up the gut out of the 5 wide set got absolutely stuffed, it should have been clear TSUN was selling out to stop Dak out of that formation. Did we use that to our advantage and have him play action in that formation then throw it? No. We kept trying to ram it at them and they kept stuffing it.
2. Mullen's clock management was pretty bad, too. Down 14 with under 3 minutes to go, on the goal line, needing a quick score. What does Dan do? Run the football twice. Valuable seconds tick off the clock. We eventually fail to score, game over.
3. What bothered me most was the lack of intensity from Mullen. He just never seemed to have the urgency needed for this game. Totally inexcusable.
4. Home field advantage has meant everything in this series since the game returned to the campuses in 1991. You think eventually I'd figure that out and stop making the pilgrimage to Oxford every other year
5. The refs did a terrible job controlling the game. They missed a blatant facemask on J-Rob and a late hit on Dak. We're lucky Dak wasn't severely injured.
6. Run the Damn Football Update: We ran it 47 of 84 offensive plays for a 56/34 run/pass ratio. And several of those "runs" were Dak scrambles in the first half. Mullen got impatient and abandoned the gameplan in the second half.
7. I don't know if it's our travel arrangements to Oxford, coaching, voodoo, or whatever but something has to change when we go to Oxford. At the very least, stop staying in Starkville and forcing the players to ride a bus 1.5-2 hours to the game. Stay in Oxford in 2016 and minimize the ride time.
8. I opened by saying I'm just as angry, frustrated, and disappointed as all of you surely are. Maybe more so. But we need to keep things in perspective. While I HATE losing to TSUN, this doesn't totally ruin the season. We accomplished things we never have before: 10 regular season wins, a number 1 ranking, a multi-week stay at #1. Legitimately in the playoff hunt all the way through the last game of the season. And beating 3 Top 10 teams in a row - something only 4 other schools had ever done prior. Sure, losing to TSUN puts a sour taste in the mouth. And I don't blame anyone who feels like the season wasn't a success, at least right now. But by next week, shrug it off and move on. This season was a gigantic success for our program. There's no reason for us to hang our heads.
That's my thoughts. You know the drill. Fire in the hole!
In Mullen We Trust (But Pissed Off At),