Mississippi State won a football game today. Or I guess they did. The scoreboard says the Bulldogs won, so we will trust it. Our eyes told us a somewhat different story. Considering this team has been touted far and wide as a "darkhorse" contender to win the SEC West and a team with the chance to make a major bowl, the first two games have been a disappointment. We have played two to three quarters of good football against two physically inferior teams. Dan Mullen needs to take a long look in the mirror and ask himself why he insists on making things difficult for his team and those who cheer for it. That said, here are some early takeaways from a game that has left me angry:
1) We don't have a kicker. Like, not one. And this is Mullen's sixth year as the head coach of MSU. This is inexcusable, and it is going to cost us at least one game this year.
2) Mullen needs to cute the cutesy crap out. Rotating QBs every series is dumb, regardless of the team or situation. It doesn't work for anyone, and it has killed us in the these first two games. Dak is our guy. Period. He clearly needs the reps, particularly in the passing game, where his accuracy still has a ways to go before he is considered an elite QB. Don't waste reps and offensive possessions by playing Damian. It's dumb.
3) Our secondary was a dumpster fire today. UAB's WRs treated Redmond worse than the NCAA, and we have gave up FIVE pass plays over 50 yards. Several times we were in position to make a play and went for the pick instead of knocking the ball down. Other times we just got burned. This is a major concern going forward.
4) We still don't have much of a pass rush. Some of this is due to our stupid insistence on rotating two entire DLs. We have two guys who can rush the passer: Chris Jones and Preston Smith. They need to be on the field at the same time. McKinney can get after the QB, but we have to be able to get pressure with our front four. We haven't had a DL have more than 5.5. sacks in a season during Mullen's time here, and Titus Brown or Willie Evans (Evans had a monster season his senior year.) are the closest things we have had to an elite edge rusher in the past decade. It's time someone on the staff start signing players who can bring pressure off the edge.
5) This is our most talented offense under Mullen. It still lacks explosiveness, though. Our WRs, while infinitely better than they have been in the past, still aren't burners. We're going to have to rely on the running game and play-action passing off of it to grind teams down again this year. More speed is needed on offense.
6) The OL played better this game. Too bad they weren't given more opportunities to run block on third or fourth and short. Dan needs to quit calling pass plays on fourth-and-one when we're play UAB. Run it down their throat. Make them like it.
7) McKinney was a beast today. The LBs all did some good things, really.
8) Preston Smith's pick six was amazing. His draft stock just went up.
9) Good to see Gus Walley get on the field and make some plays. Missing the past two seasons has to have been hard on him.
10) This is one of those "duh" things, but we're a helluva lot better when we let Dak run. He missed way too many passes today, but his running ability opens things up for everyone else. He still has a of growing to do as a passer, but I think we all forget this is his first season as a full-time starter.
As you can probably tell, I'm not happy with this win. We looked like steaming fecal matter, and we won't win against South Alabama in Mobile next weekend if we as poorly as we did today. Next game will tell us a lot about how serious Mullen is in playing to win. If Damian plays early against a USA team with a good defense, Dan should have some serious explaining to do. Because what we have seen through these first two games gives me little hope this is anything other than a typical 7-5 Dan Mullen team. Maybe Dan will get his head out of his ass, and we will feel differently after next weekend. Or maybe not.
Lastly, props to UAB. They're improved. For a directional team wearing helmets designed by a sixth grader with an anime obsession, I thought they looked pretty good. They'll beat some folks in C-USA.