In the past few weeks, Justin Strawn and I have been having some fun with a campaign regarding Mississippi State’s offense. I took a saying he made and turned it into a hashtag called #AlwaysRunNeverPass. It started shortly after the Kentucky game.
In that game, the Bulldogs ran the ball incredibly well out of option looks and Nick Fitzgerald was able to expose Kentucky’s defense on the ground. That same sort of offense was able to plow through then fourth ranked Texas A&M and gave MSU a commanding victory over the Aggies.
Now Mississippi State is set to take on Arkansas, and as Justin pointed out earlier this week, Arkansas is not good at defending the run.
On the season, Arkansas has given up 2176 yards on the ground for an average of 217.6 rushing yards per game. Per rushing attempt, they’re giving up an average of 6.34 yards per carry. And on the year, the Razorbacks have given up 29 touchdowns on the ground. That’s not just bad, that’s abysmal.
Arkansas has had their defensive flaws exposed in the past few weeks. They were blown out by both LSU and Auburn, teams that find success by running the ball down their opponents’ throats. And that’s just what they did to the Razorbacks. LSU and Auburn combined for 933 yards on the ground. LSU had 390 yards and Auburn totaled 543. Arkansas was outscored 94-13 in these two games. Their defense has major flaws.
And Mississippi State’s offense is built perfectly to expose those flaws. It’s no secret that Nick Fitzgerald is a far better runner than he is a passer. As an option quarterback in high school, he’s still got some developing to do in order to become a guy that secondaries will fear. However, he’s pretty terrifying to try to defend on the ground.
Fitzgerald is the leading rusher for the Bulldogs with 854 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns for an average of 5.6 yards per carry. He’s tied for 7th in the SEC when it comes to running the ball, and he’s the only quarterback in the top 10.
On top of that, we’ve seen the emergence of Aeris Williams, a guy that has totaled 196 yards on 35 carries and a touchdown in the past two weeks. Williams has become the clear choice as the top running back and is the second leading rusher on the team, largely because of these last two weeks.
The Bulldogs will also more than likely turn to seniors Ashton Shumpert and Brandon Holloway to help carry the load tonight. Shumpert, who is averaging 4.8 yards per carry, and Holloway, who exploded for 164 total offensive yards against Arkansas a year ago, will look to make their last game in Davis Wade Stadium a memorable one.
In addition to those four, Dan Mullen should look to continue to incorporate Malik Dear and Keith Mixon in the running game. Dear and Mixon have combined for a touchdown and 217 yards on 37 attempts.
In total, Mississippi State has run for 2136 yards and 14 touchdowns with an average of 5.1 yards per carry. The Bulldogs are far better at running the ball than they are at passing it. We’ve said before that this should be the focus tonight, and you’re right if you expect us to say it again. If Mississippi State wants to find a way to bowl eligibility, hopefully Dan Mullen will remember to #AlwaysRunNeverPass.