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The Good, Bad & Unknown: Fewer Mistakes Were Made

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Being .500 going into week three isn’t pretty, but it sure beats the hell out of 0-2

South Carolina v Mississippi State
“CORNDOGS, JACKIE. CORNDOGS FOR ALL THESE PEOPLE.”
Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

After a brutal week one, Mississippi State managed to bounce back and snag a W from South Carolina at home on Saturday. Dan Mullen got angry and the team responded, coming out firing on (almost) all cylinders in the first half. Between Nick Fitzgerald finding his zone and the defensive line absolutely dominating the Gamecocks, Saturday’s performance has me feeling much better about the future of this team.

Let’s investigate:

The Good

  • State finally has found an answer to the QB question in Fitzgerald. The guy is lightning fast and is not afraid to run. He’s not overly physical, but he has incredible vision in finding the open space so that he doesn’t have to be. While it didn’t quite seem like a record-breaking performance at the time, the numbers and consistency were there. While there was one nifty 74 yard dash, Fitzgerald got most of his 195 on busted plays and what would’ve turned into coverage sacks. Dak Prescott scared the life out of me being downright reckless at times, giving himself up as a runner. What makes me like Fitzgerald is his awareness of when the play is dead, when to tuck it and run as well as knowing when to slide or get out of bounds to preserve himself at the sacrifice of a few extra yards. That’s something we really didn’t start to see develop in Prescott until his senior year.
  • AJ Jefferson and the defensive line were in straight kill mode on Saturday night. While he may not have had the jump-off-the-page defensive statistics that we saw against South Alabama, Jefferson was named SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week for a reason. The man practically lived in USC’s backfield all night, disrupting plays before they could even begin. Jefferey Simmons also had an instant impact on the defensive presence up front, along with the return of Nick James and the emergence of Jonathan Calvin (who is an absolute beast, but more on him later).
  • Dan Mullen was pissed off for greatness and it was evident throughout the entire game. Players were hitting harder, finishing through the whistle and it even showed on the sidelines with coaches not accepting anything other than full effort. This is the Mullen that put Mississippi State football on the map. I know I said very few nice things about our head coach after last week but it’s nice to see that he took the loss to heart and made the adjustments that needed to be made.

The Bad

  • Holloway up the middle is the single-largest epidemic facing this nation since the Zika virus. Mullen’s play-calling improved dramatically from last week, increasing the amount of downfield passing and utilizing Fitzgerald’s running ability. But, a part of me dies every time I see Holloway’s 5’ 8”, 165 pound frame run into the line of scrimmage and have absolutely nowhere to go. The most glaringly absurd series was during MSU’s second trip into the red zone. Mullen called Holloway up the middle on 1st and 3rd down, both resulting in loss of yardage and killed whatever momentum MSU may have had going down the field after a 74 yard burst from Fitzgerald. It just don’t make no sense, Paul.
  • Our secondary has got to figure something out. Dropping eight guys into coverage and repeatedly allowing 10+ yard gains is not going to end well in Death Valley. If USC had better QB play, this game may have gotten much more interesting. Brandon Bryant is inconsistent, Jamal Peters is young and learning to play a position he’s never played before and I don’t even know what Jamoral Graham is doing back there. Regardless of who LSU starts at QB this weekend, they’re already targeting our secondary.
  • There were lots of really dumb penalties on State in all three phases of the game. It’s little things like this that keeps opposing teams in the game and we won’t stand a chance against the big boys of the SEC unless we can clean it up. That comes back on coaching, too. Too many USC drives were kept alive by penalties down the stretch.

The Unknown

  • Leo Lewis is the future of the defense. On just about every defensive play, Lewis was either in on the tackle, in the pile or right over it at the whistle. He hustles more than anyone else on the field and at times looked like he’d been playing linebacker longer than Richie Brown has. I am VERY excited about Lewis’ future with Mississippi State.
  • Johnathan Calvin is absolutely killing it at the Viper position. Viper is a a new position introduced by Peter Sirmon in his new defensive philosophy and is just a fancy name for a DE/LB hybrid. Since State has a surplus of talent at the DE position, Sirmon is finding new ways to get more of those guys on the field at once. Despite his size, Calvin is showing he has the quickness and athletic ability to embarrass offensive linemen and disrupt the backfield. Along with the outstanding play of J.T. Gray and AJ Jefferson, our front seven has the potential to be one of the best in the SEC.
  • Early in the 3rd quarter, Ruff Ryder’s Anthem was played before USC was about to start a drive from their own 20. First play after the song went off? A 20 yard pass and catch for USC. We need to find out who is in charge of this and put it to an end. It’s becoming just plain irresponsible.

Did I miss anything? Still think I’m stupid? Let me know in the comments and go to Hell Louisiana State University.