1) This team is the epitome of inconsistent
For the first 30 minutes, Mississippi State looked like it had no business being on the same field as LSU. The Tigers did what they wanted and looked unstoppable in almost every facet of the game. The offense that couldn’t produce anything sprung to life tonight and LSU’s defensive front mauled Mississippi State.
But the second half was considerably different. Mississippi State found some life on defense in the second half, and even though the offense was in a lull, it still looked like the Bulldogs might be able to crawl back into up until the fourth quarter came. Then the Bulldogs seemed out of the game.
And then Damian Williams entered the game. Receivers stopped dropping balls. The offense moved. Two touchdowns were scored. It was a three point game. And then on the final drive, Mississippi State threw every hope of a comeback away and looked like they had in the first half. They went four and out. This team has a lot of potential, but their inconsistency will cost them a lot of games this season.
2) The offense is a mess unless we can run the ball
We had 270 total yards on offense. The offense was offensive, in other words. Of the 270 aforementioned yards, only 56 of them came on the ground. Mississippi State will not win games when it cannot run the ball well. And a lot of that goes back to the offensive line and selection of running backs.
And at just about every moment when it felt like the offense would be able to get something going, the offensive line would cave in and Nick Fitzgerald and the running backs couldn’t get any positive yards.
3) Ashton Shumpert and Aeris Williams have the potential to be key contributors
Speaking of running back selection, Ashton Shumpert looked good. Aeris Williams looked good. Dan Mullen needs to use them more. Shumpert was a solid offensive spark running the ball, and he bowled through LSU’s defense without much issue in the third quarter.
Aeris Williams didn’t do a lot in this game, but converting a key fourth down with a solid reception and fighting through tackles to gain more yards showed off his physicality and determination. Mississippi State will need that, both this season and in the future. And unfortunately we didn’t see enough of him, or Shumpert, tonight.
4) The defense needs to consistently disrupt opposing offenses
We knew that the secondary would be weak due to inexperience, injuries, and depth issues at corner. But the front seven was supposed to be physical enough to help overcome those deficiencies. They weren’t tonight.
And part of that has to do with the immense amount of talent that LSU has on the offensive line and at fullback and tight end. But part of that is also a function of a scheme that didn’t adjust enough to force pressure through blitzing when nothing else was working. The secondary will be a liability unless something happens. Be it the front seven becomes more disruptive or that the secondary significantly improves, both are possible theoretically. But something needs to happen, and soon.
5) We have a lingering quarterback controversy
We all thought the quarterback controversy was done. Nick Fitzgerald struggled, but we all assumed that Dan Mullen would stick with him regardless. And he might have, had Fitzgerald’s helmet not been knocked off late in the fourth quarter.
Damian Williams entered the game, as I mentioned earlier. Also, as I mentioned earlier, he was the key facilitator of a revived offense on two touchdown drives. He scored both for Mississippi State’s offense tonight. Dan Mullen said that this doesn’t affect the quarterback competition in any way in his postgame press conference, but as Justin Strawn brings up, if that’s the case, why not role with Fitzgerald again?
Mullen said the play of Damian Williams doesn’t change the QB battle.— Ben Wait (@bcwait) September 18, 2016