Peeps, it's been a long offseason. Thankfully, football is back! It's always good to start off with a win and dominating an in-state opponent is even better. Here's what I thought about the game:
1. Simply put, this unit was superb. The front 4 generated pressure without the blitz. They flew to the ball and made sure tackles when they got there. They held USM's offense to fewer than 300 yards of total offense. Only 71 yards rushing. In a word: Dominant.
2. This unit is DEEP. We will legitimately be able to play 22-25 guys all season on this side of the ball. I expect to see more mixing-and-matching as the season goes on as opposed to subbing in the whole 2nd unit. But we can afford to do that these first three games and gives us things to work on moving forward.
3. Preston Smith is a grown man. He's the best DL we have that isn't named Chris Jones. The guy is an absolute beast. His INT was an incredible display of individual effort. Then he blocks a FG to preserve the shutout by blowing up the interior line of USM's FG unit. I look for him to cause some serious havoc to opposing offenses this season.
4. Speaking of Chris Jones, he had a good night. He absolutely blew up USM's OG on his sack, displaying tremendous strength and speed with a bull rush.
5. My Dawg Kendrick Market once aGAIN tied for the team lead in tackles last night with six. All he does is make the right play at the right time.
6. The "D-Block," as the D-Line calls themselves, is fantastic. USM never came close to blocking them. They lived in the USM backfield.
7. Nick James.....wow. He didn't get in until the 4th Quarter, but I was very impressed. I hesitate to use the term "svelte" for a guy who still probably tips the scales at well over 300, but he looked completely different physically. And when he was on the field, he never stopped. I don't think it'll be long before he starts getting snaps when the game is still in doubt. It's clear he's finally got his head on straight and is ready to make an impact on the field. Can't wait to continue watching his development this season.
8. Our LBs were solid, but not spectacular. They stuffed the run and did a good job defending the pass, particularly Matt Wells and Benardrick McKinney.
9. The DBs were very good all night. USM throws it a lot, but they were always right there and made the plays to keep USM from mounting serious drives. I thought the Safeties put some of the concerns to rest, as they did extremely well.
10. Welcome back, Jay Hughes!!!! He had a huge night and earned every bit of it. His INT on the Hail Mary at the end of the half was very nice. He just played CF then went and got it when the ball was in the air. His TD return was just flat out fun to see. He put my doubts to rest about how he's recovered from the ruptured Achilles on that run, displaying some serious top end speed. He's going to make a big impact on D before the season is over.
1. Here we go aGAIN. Outside of Devon Bell, this unit was pretty bad as a whole. Missed FG, bad snap, false start. Totally unacceptable.
2. I'm calling out Dan Mullen. Pardon my rant, but how in the blue hell has he been here FIVE YEARS and not found a K who can make a routine FG? If we lose a critical game because we can't make a FG from 35 yards and in, he needs to be on the hot seat next season. Hold campus wide open tryouts, but do whatever it takes to find a K. And I'm also going to call on Scott Stricklin to force Mullen to give up ALL control of STs in the offseason and hire a real ST coach.
3. Our KO return team only had one chance all night, but the fact that we bobbled the kick and forced ourselves to drive 90 yards wasn't good. Hard to know if they've improved with only one chance, but bobbling the very first attempt doesn't look good.
4. PR unit was awful. Tubby had 2 returns for 5 yards. Holloway had 1 for 1 yard and a bobble. Get them outta there and let Redmond or Cox have it. We're going to be in the 110s-120s aGAIN in PR if we don't make some changes.
5. Devon Bell was fantastic. He only had 4 punts, but pinned 3 inside the 20. I still hate our strategy of hanging KOs high to prevent a return, though.
6. At least Sobiesk and Graves can make an XP. Graves 40 yard FG was horrific in how badly it missed. Never had a chance from the moment it left his toe. In fairness, a bad snap apparently had a lot to do with it. But I'm sick of excuses for how bad our FG game has been for the last 14 games.
7. I really, really hope we have another plan at long snapper. Winston Chapman was absolutely terrible. False start on a punt attempt. Seriously, how does the center false start? You should know the snap count better than anyone! Bad snap that may have caused Graves to miss a FG. He has ONE JOB and he isn't even doing it.
8. Good news, our FG Block unit was very good. Preston Smith made a big time block to save the shutout and Jay Hughes scooped it up for a 68 yard TD return to put an exclamation on the blowout.
9. Long, long way to go in this phase of the game if we want to have the type of season we believe we can.
1. We looked crisp coming out of the gate. Marched 90 yards in a hurry on the opening drive to go up 7 quickly. After that, we got sluggish until the mid-2nd Quarter. Can't have that happen in SEC play.
2. Worst sequence of the game was the goal line possession following Preston Brown's INT. 4 straight runs and none got close. OL got zero push, and according to Hevesy, missed a couple of blocks. You want to beat a Bama, Auburn, or aTm, you gotta cash in on that opportunity.
3. Reasserted control up front in the 2nd Quarter and never looked back. Four straight TD drives.
4. I thought the key to the game was the first drive of the 2nd Quarter. Nick Griffin put the team on his back and said "Let's go score." Then he proceeded to ram it down the Buzzards' throats, ultimately getting himself a 1-yard TD run.
5. Speaking of Nick Griffin, I thought he looked very good last night. He ran hard with tremendous power. But you could also tell he doesn't have the top end speed he did before his 2nd ACL tear. It hurts me to think what could have been with him. He might have been one of the best ever to wear Maroon and White. I also LOVED seeing us line him up at FB. You know I've been beating that drum for a year. Wish we'd do it more out of the Gun.
6. Josh Robinson had a good night. He ran hard and showed he'll be a load to bring down. He's got that low center of gravity and has a ton of lower body strength. He also looked good as a receiver out of the backfield. If he keeps that up, he'll be even more dangerous.
7. Dak was Dak. 18/26, 286 yards passing, 4 TDs. Didn't run much, but didn't need to. Made a couple of big mistakes, namely throwing the INT in the endzone and running into a sack trying to reverse field. But that can be cleaned up and isn't something to be overly worried about yet.
8. Thought our WRs as a whole looked better. They made plays for the ball instead of waiting for the ball to come to them. The big WRs used their size extremely well. Everyone ran good routes. Just a very solid, clean game from this unit.
9. De'Runnya Wilson has come a long way since last year. Having a full year in Court's S&C program has really paid off, as he has developed serious strength. USM struggled to tackle him all night. And best of all, it looks like he's learning how to use his size to his advantage. Very excited about his development over the course of the season.
10. The Freds had a nice game. Both of them are on my Breakout Offensive Player(s) Watch List. I thought Ross in particular looked good. He really used his size and strength well last night on his 2 TD catches. I wouldn't be surprised if he pushes RoJo for his starting position at some point this season.
11. OL was good after they had a Come to Jesus with Hevesy in the 2nd Quarter. My question/concern is why we didn't see more of Jamaal Clayborn with the 1s. Chris Jones has said he's our best OG and he's looked like an absolute road grader when he's gotten in. Beckwith is good, but he's better suited to be the swing G.
12. Thought Damian Williams was a little inconsistent, but that's not unexpected. His TD drive and pass was a thing of beauty, though. And his keeper on that drive was very fun to watch.
1. Overall, I thought we played pretty well. Sloppy field conditions, but we still ran and threw it effectively. Not as many "explosive" plays as I'd have liked to see, but there were enough of them to not be concerned.
2. Noticed our Zone Read Option wasn't really a Read last night. It was a predetermined handoff like we used with TR at QB. Definitely an intentional decision on the part of the coaches to keep hits off our QBs. Smart move by Dan and the staff.
3. Overall, thought we were very vanilla last night. See note 2 as just one example on offense. Didn't see our Guards pull much. WR routes were pretty basic. D stayed in 4-3 and Nickel. Not a lot of blitzing or disguising. Despite that, we still won going away. Look for more of the same the next 2 weeks.
4. Don't even get me started on the CUSA officiating crew. Thought they did a good job in terms of penalties, but I went ballistic when the back judge collided with Bear and Tubby. Especially when I saw Bear limp off the field. That was some classic MState stuff right there.
5. Crowd: Good job! You showed up despite the weather and were loud. Still need to get better about being quiet when we're on offense, though.
6. Student section: You were fantastic. Most of you stayed into the 4th. But best of all, you got in the stadium early and were ROCKING a full hour and a half before kickoff. Haven't heard y'all that fired up in a long time. Keep it up!
7. Frats and Sororities: You suck. I know it was a blowout, but leaving at halftime was awful. At least stay until the 4th. I realize this is a nationwide problem, but the rest of us are sick of it. Either stay and be loud or give your tickets up and let students come to the game who care about the game, not what band is going to play 2 hours from halftime.
8. Administration: You've jumped the shark with the "Hail State" branding. It's fine as a victory slogan and Twitter hashtag. But asking us to say "Hail State" after the PA "First Down Bulldogs" is overkill, especially after you've plastered it on the stadium, on the field, on the uniforms, and anywhere you can stick it. Enough is enough. Whatever happened to a simple, effective, heartfelt "Go Dawgs!"? You've thrown the baby out with the bathwater and it sucks.
9. Administration, Part II: The ads still sucked. After promising no ads between drives earlier this week.....WE STILL GOT ADS BETWEEN DRIVES. STOP IT.
10. Administration, Part III: Turn up the volume on the Moo Tube. With the crowd noise, I couldn't hear the music for the team's entrance vid. The stadium is louder now, adjust the sound system accordingly.
11. I thought we did a better job of timing the pre-game to buildup to the team running out of the tunnel. Almost no dead time to kill the crowd. Still room for improvement, but better.
12. The new expansion was awesome. The noise really stays in the stadium now and is very loud. I can't imagine what it'll be like for a SEC night game.
13. Can we PLEASE wear those uniforms every game? By far the best unis we've had since the JWS & Nike unis. Shiny, dark maroon helmet, white face mask, striped shoulders. No more aTm clone jerseys.
That's how I saw it. Early afternoon game next week. I thought the days of 1 PM non-TV games were over, especially in September? Bottom line, Dawgs won and won big. Plenty for the coaches to focus on this week and clean up, but the only thing that's major is STs. And unfortunately, that's pretty much what we all expected in that department. You guys know the drill by now. Fire in the hole!
In Mullen We Trust,