Peeps, that was a HUGE win. I can't overstate how important it was. Outside of the fact it's an SEC game, we needed the emotional boost. Coming off the absolute beatdown by Bama, it would have been easy for a relatively young team to just fold. Instead, we found a way to win a tough game on the road. Enough preamble, it's time to ask the weekly question "What did we learn?" Here's what I saw:
1. Defense was an absolute abortion. There's just no nice way to describe it. Missed tackles, wide open receivers, 3rd & long conversions galore. Zero turnovers forced. Arkansas tallied 479 yards of total offense. Hog QB Brandon Allen was 30-43, 69.7% completions, 406 yards, and 7 TD. The Hogs were 8/14 on 3rd down. And I'm pretty sure the Hogs' TEs are STILL wide open.
2. If you're looking for a positive, I guess I'd be forced to say we stopped the Razorback running game, allowing just 73 rush yards and held Alex Collins to 53 yards with a long rush of 8. The D also had 7 TFLs.
3. DL had a good night. They blew up the biggest OL in football regularly and harassed Allen most of the night. They were a big reason Arkansas struggled to run the ball.
4. LBs were a mixed bag. Beni Brown & Richie Brown were monsters, but Zach Jackson......More on these guys in a minute.
5. Secondary was abused. Brandon Allen is one hell of a QB, but our DBs made it easy for him. I can't remember the last time I've seen so many guys running free.
6. Chris Jones has finally decided he's going to be a grown man. He was almost unblockable. The stats don't jump off the page, but he was a constant force. He finished with 1 TFL, 1 PBU, and 1 QBH.
7. Nick James might be my favorite DL. Love his motor and enthusiasm. He's one of the big reasons it's hard to run on this D.
8. AJ Jefferson is a bad, bad man. So glad we have him one more year.
9. Beni Brown was a beast. He finished the night with 12 total tackles, 1.5 TFLs, and the game winning FG block. Can't believe he doesn't get more hype as one of the best LBs in the SEC, because he is.
10. Richie Brown wasn't far behind Beni. He had 10 total tackles and 1.5 TFLs.
11. I wish I knew why Zach Jackson keeps getting to play. You cannot possibly convince me Gerri Green and JT Gray are worse. Sure, he makes tackles. But they're usually 8 yards downfield after he's screwed up his assignment to allow the play to begin with. I don't think he covered either of Arkansas's TEs all night. Wherever there was a blown coverage, it was a good bet Jackson was one of the guys who blew it.
12. Tolando "The Cleveland Steamer" is awful. When Jackson didn't blow the coverage, Steamer did. I lost count of how many times he got beat. I shudder to think of how the Northern Miss WRs will abuse him in a week. I'd rather take my chances with Cedric Jiles.
13. Taveze Calhoun had a relatively quiet night, as Arkansas didn't throw at him much.
14. Nice to see Brandon Bryant continuing to improve. He's going to be very, very good. He's already our best S. And I love the way he laid the lumber to the Hog WR over the middle. That's exactly how you're supposed to play S.
15. Allen just completed another pass to a TE.
1. Outside of the block, Special Teams were a joke. After starting the year off strong, we've regressed the last few weeks. We're back to the stupid short KO to try to gain field position. Missed kicks and turnovers.
2. Logan Cooke basically got the night off. He had all of 1 punt for 35 yards. We either scored, turned it over, or took a knee on every other possession.
3. Devon Bell had a crucial KO go out of bounds to set the Hogs up on a short field after we'd just gone ahead 44-42. Arkansas promptly marches straight downfield and scores the go-ahead TD. Inexcusable from a SR in that situation.
4. Westin Graves missed his first PAT of the season and it couldn't have come at a worse time. We had just regained the lead and needed the PAT to make it a 3-point game. Graves doinks the try, giving Arkansas some momentum, then #3 above from Bell. Hard for me to get too down on Graves, though. He's been money almost all season.
5. Fred Ross only had one PR for 7 yards. No surprise in a 51-50 game.
6. Malik Dear had 2 KOR for 43 yards.
7. Brandon Holloway had 3 KOR, but one was a critical fumble to start the second half. I'm tired of watching him fumble because he's so little. He gets lit up and it's hard for him to absorb the big shots he takes without dropping the ball. He's tougher than a $2 steak, but I'd rather put Gray back there. Needless to say, Arkansas immediately cashed in the TO for a TD to give them serious momentum.
8. Beni Brown made the play of the night on STs when we needed it. He shot through and got a paw on the ball to secure the win. Love seeing your best players step up and makes plays when you need them most.
1. Offense was spectacular. The Dawgs totaled 631 yards with 508 passing and 123 rushing. State actually outrushed Arkansas by 50 yards. You'd have made a lot of money if you bet on that. Dawgs converted 8/13 3rd downs and 1/2 4th downs Still had some crucial screw-ups that need ironing out, though.
2. Dak had his best night yet as a passer. He threw for all 508 yards which is a new single game record, passing Derrick Taite's 466. He now officially owns every QB passing record at MSU. He also had 5 passing TDs. But what jumped off the page to me is how efficient Dak was, going 38-51 with a completion percentage of 74.5%. That's video game numbers. He did have the one INT, but it's hard for me to fault him for it. Bear Wilson let it bounce off his chest and turn into a tip drill. Dak couldn't have thrown it any better.
Dak added another 50 yards and 2 TDs on the ground. That brings his total to 558 yards and 7 TDs. I repeat, video game numbers.
3. Fred Ross is a beast. He led the way for the Dawg receivers with a game high 10 catches, 154 yards, and 2 TDs. His first TD was completely ridiculous, a one handed grab followed by a tremendous run that include a couple of crazy cuts. I hate to say it, but he's probably NFL ready.
4. We finally fed the Bear. He tied Ross with 10 catches. But he only managed 93 yards and 1 TD. He also had a couple of drops, including the pass off his chest that led to Dak's INT. I doubt he'll come back, but he should. He really needs another year to learn to improve at catching the ball with his hands more consistently.
5. Can't believe it, but we finally used Brandon Holloway correctly, for the most part. We gave him the ball on sweeps, swing passes, and screens which lets him use his speed and quickness in space. He still had a couple of runs up the gut, but not nearly as many as we've been seeing. His final numbers were solid: 14 for 63, 4.5 YPC, 4 catches, 101 yards, 1 TD. Still think he carried it about 10 times too many, but at least most of them were to the outside. I just wish he were about 2 inches taller and 30 pounds heavier, because he'd be a beast.
6. Why does Ashton Shumpert still get to play?
7. I guess Aeris Williams has contracted Moultrie Knee. I don't even remember seeing him in the game. It's ridiculous that he's glued to the bench, but Shump is given unlimited chances even though he continues screwing up.
8. OL was better. I'm assuming Justin Senior was injured, as Elgton Jenkins played the whole game at RT. Of course, going from playing the best DL in America to one of the worst in the SEC didn't hurt. I still think our best starting 5 are: LT - Malone, LG - Jenkins, C - Clayborn, RG - Calhoun, RT - Senior. At the very least, can we insert Malone for Desper?
9. Nine different Dawgs caught a pass. Dak does a great job of spreading the wealth. We even had a Joe "Stone Hands" Morrow sighting. Donald Gray has once again gotten lost in the shuffle.
10. Gabe Myles looked healthy last night. He had 3 catches for 69 yards and should've had a pass TD to Dak. Unfortunately, he had to double clutch the ball and threw it too late, giving the DB time to recover. But most importantly, he looked like he had that burst and quickness we're accustomed to seeing from him. He made a couple of really nice cuts in the open field. I'm not sure he's 100%, but he looked a whole lot better than he has the last 2 weeks.
11. I still think we underutilize our TEs. They're all different and each creates a different type of mismatch. Walley is more of a receiver. Hutcherson is huge and faster than most LBs. Justin Johnson isn't playing much, but he's the best blocker of the group and is that true hybrid TE - very comparable to Evan Engram.
12. Fred Brown is quietly having a very good season. He added another 4 catches, 39 yards, and a TD last night.
1. Mullen may have called one of his best games in years. We finally utilized a couple of guys like Holloway correctly and ran it just enough to keep the Swine D honest. There was a great mix of deep shots and underneath throws. Still wish we'd go with our best 5 on the OL and use Aeris as our primary RB. But that's a big reach on a night we rolled up over 600 yards of total offense and scored 51.
2. Really, really pissed off with Manny Diaz. Did he even watch film this week? You know Allen is on fire. He came into the game with the best QBR in the SEC. You know the Pigs want to run the ball and are going to throw it to their TEs off the play action. Yet somehow it's like we just decided "Screw it, we aren't covering the TEs." They combined for 13 catches, 176 yards, and 5 TDs. I hope he had to walk back to Starkville. He better come out with a much improved game plan against Northern Miss.
3. Mullen continues to mismanage the end of halves. We're up 17 at 31-14. Manny's D goes full retard and gives up a TD to cut the lead to 10. Then instead of trying for a quick score with a hot offense and Dak, Mullen sits on the ball. Arkansas carries momentum into the locker room. Then Holloway coughs up the fumble on the opening KO of the 2nd half and the Pigs cut it to 3. Before we can blink, Arkansas has scored 28 unanswered and held the ball almost the entire 3rd quarter. That kind of lack of focus just can't happen. What should've turned into a blowout in our favor became a tough game.
4. Really proud of the way the offense kept fighting. The D may not have stopped Arkansas, but the O never gave up. They just kept finding ways to score and give the D a chance. Then STs finally came through when we needed them. I still can't believe we actually got the block.
5. Brandon Allen is a big time QB. I don't understand why so many people think he sucks. He's got a good arm and is cooler than the other side of the pillow under pressure. We blitzed him all night, had guys all around him, and he just found a way to move around in the pocket and throw strikes. I wouldn't be shocked to see him be a really good backup QB in the NFL.
I'm still in shock we blocked the FG and won. And look, there's another catch from an Arkansas TE. Mullen is now 4-3 against the Swine, with 4 wins in a row. It's nice to finally win this crappy sandwich game. Why are we virtually the only SEC team that doesn't play either 1) a crappy OOC school or 2) one of their big rivals this weekend? I'd swap this game for an OOC in September in a heartbeat. Stricklin should raise holy hell with the SEC office to make it happen. But that's a different rant. D needs to dramatically improve this week. The pass D I saw last night will get crushed by Northern Miss. And I'm still not sold our OL can hold up against their DL without some shuffling.
Battle for the Golden Egg Week is here. Let the Hate Flow Through You!