Man, what a tough pill to swallow losing in the final seconds on a missed field goal after a resilient second half performance. I don't know about you folks watching on TV, but watching from the stands was almost too nerve wracking to handle.
It's a loss that will be remembered all season for what could have been. It was ugly at times, and it was promising at times. There are no moral victories, but there are still positives to take away from the game.
I haven't went back and watched the game on tape, but I plan to do so to better assess individual performances and really focus on what caused the offensive line miscues. Nonetheless, here are my main takeaways after witnessing the thriller in person:
Don't give up on the offensive line
Were they beyond awful run blocking and picking up the blitz at times? Yes, but that was to be expected from this group early on in the season. If you thought they would pick right up where Dilllon Day, Blaine Clausell, and Ben Beckwith left off you were mistaken. The individual talent replacing those three have a higher ceiling, but it takes time for a line to gel and play as a unit. The offense sputtered the whole first half because of them, but don't forget they had to learn LSU's defensive scheme on the fly without any previous game film.
I put more stock into the improvement and adjustment the offensive line made in the second half than anything else. Believe me, if they would have stunk up the second half the way they did the first, I would be ranting and raving about that position right now. But they didn't, they improved in the second half -- at least in pass blocking -- and that is encouraging. The line will only get better as the season goes on. Be patient and give it time.
Where is the tempo?
Speaking of the offensive line, what is the one thing that can offset a bad one? A lightning fast offense that snaps the ball quickly and doesn't give the defense time for a pre-snap look at what you're running. I'm really not sure why Mullen isn't running up tempo so far. They ran it successfully last season and we heard all offseason that it would be even faster this year. LSU's d-line was kicking butt most of the night and little adjustment was made in the way of play calling. A faster tempo with quicker passes would have done wonders until the big boys up front got settled in.
It's something to look at going forward, especially when playing elite defenses like Alabama and Ole Miss. If Mullen isn't going to let Dak run (I'll get to that soon) this offense will resort to what it was with Tyler Russell unless they pick up the pace and use tempo to their advantage.
Gotta get your playmakers the ball
And in this case the playmaker I'm talking about is De'Runnya Wilson. He had a tremendous second half and finished the game with 8 catches for 86 yards and a score, but he was nonexistent the first two quarters. I don't think it was his inability to get open but more of a lack of throws his way. The slow start on offense could have been avoided if the best player would have been targeted more. It didn't look like he was targeted at all to be quite honest. Mullen has to call plays that are designed to get Wilson the ball, and Dak has to make more of an effort to get him the ball early. Wilson always plays his best in big games -- especially against SEC West teams -- and as good as Fred Ross is and was against LSU Saturday, Wilson makes this passing attack flourish.
Let Dak Prescott play Dak Prescott football
I thought last week it was all part of the plan to keep Dak healthy and not show much of the offense, but now that two games are in the books, it's clear we have a serious problem here. I don't know if it's in Dak's head that he can't be drafted if he's a running QB or if Mullen has told him to stay in the pocket every play, but it's obvious to everybody watching that one of the two is true.
There haven't been as many designed runs and read options for Dak so far, and I can live with that because defenses expect it after last season. But what I do have a problem with is when there's 15 yards of green grass and our QB dances around and throws into traffic instead of running. What is going on?? Learning to stay in the pocket and find open receivers at the last second may translate into a better draft projection for Dak, but it's not going to help Mississippi State win football games. This new mentality has to change and change fast or it's going to be a long season.
Kudos to the defense
The final stats don't look that great, and it's never good when your opponent rushes for 250+. But the defense made stops when it needed to the most and held LSU to 21 points. They had to defend a short field on LSU's first two touchdowns, and it looked like the Tigers' o-line was about to take over the game from there on out. Not to mention Fournette looked unstoppable at times. All that being considered, I'll take 21 points any day of the week. Diaz made adjustments when needed and his unit came up big in the fourth quarter.
There are still major concerns in the secondary, but the front seven is something to really be excited about. Chris Jones looks like he might finally have a consistent season, Brown and Jefferson are monsters on the ends, and the Brown brothers at linebacker are already making fans forget about Benardrick McKinney. I don't think many people realize it, but Richie Brown has registered 11 tackles two weeks in a row. He has extremely deceptive speed from his middle linebacker spot.
Those are my thoughts. It's a tough loss to swallow and a lot of questions remain about this football team. Yes questionable clock management and special teams decisions played a role in the loss but there's always more than one thing to point the finger at. I see a lot of areas for optimism if everybody keeps maturing and learning throughout the season. The Dogs still have the potential for eight or nine wins in my opinion and with the way the rest of the SEC looked this weekend, anything is possible.