1) The defense looks like it’s regressing
Mississippi State gave up 35 points and 411 yards to a team that had scored 35 points in their previous 3 games. Seriously. They had 703 yards in their previous three games. Seriously. This is not ideal.
UMass today: 35 points on 411 yards. UMass in three games prior to today: 35 points on 703 yards.— Michael Bonner (@MikeBBonner) September 24, 2016
I don’t know where the disconnect is, but the defense did not look anywhere near as rugged in this game as it did in the second half of the LSU game. The secondary was porous and a UMass team that had struggled to run the ball found new life against the Bulldogs’ front seven. That’s not ideal for this team going forward. The defense needs to come back together and improve.
2) The offense is far too sporadic and inconsistent to beat even mediocre teams
Mississippi State’s offense scored 13 points in the first half. It scored 21 points in the third quarter. The Bulldogs proved today that they are capable of scoring at will on their opponents. The problem is that it took an abysmal first half to trigger that offense.
Mississippi State won’t be given many opportunities to fight their way back into the game like that against even mediocre SEC teams. The offense will need to be far more consistent than what we saw today if they hope to find a way to be bowl eligible, something that seems like it might be a bit out of reach.
3) Nick Fitzgerald is a good runner. He’s not a polished passer
Speaking of inconsistent, a lot of the offensive inconsistencies we see start at quarterback. Whether it’s overthrows over the middle or the inability to dump the ball of to Holloway in the first half, Nick Fitzgerald did not have a stellar performance throwing the ball.
That being said, his numbers will still jump out to you when you look at the paper. 299 yards through the air and three touchdowns to go with a 65.8 completion percentage and on the surface there’s little to complain about. His second half was considerably better than his first half.
And as I mentioned, he’s a good runner. A very good runner, in fact. 15 carries and 110 yards was good enough to lead the Bulldogs in rushing yards. But as we saw against LSU, we’re going to need him to be able to pass consistently to be able to have a shot in games. If he can continue to run like this and can develop his arm, the offense will be much smoother going forward.
4) The running game showed up and helped carry the team to victory
Along with the second half emergence of receiver Fred Ross and tight end Farrod Green, the Bulldogs leaned on the running game to come away with a victory. It’s about time that the team could run the ball.
At running back, Ashton Shumpert received the bulk of the carries, and though he struggled in the first half, he had a solid second half. Shumpert ended the day with 12 carries and 73 yards to go with a touchdown. This is arguably the biggest game that he’s had in his career. Brandon Holloway showed up as well. On 10 carries, Holloway accumulated 80 yards and was the leading rusher not named Nick Fitzgerald.
5) We badly need a bye week.
The first third of this season has been a dumpster fire. But it’s over. We have a bye week. We still don’t know exactly what this team is, but it’s incredibly stressful trying to figure it out. And I’m sure the guys on the team need this bye week mentally too. This is the perfect opportunity for the team to regroup before facing an Auburn team that is currently battling LSU pretty tough.
The Bulldogs have a tough October ahead of them. It’s going to be rough if they can’t start the month off with a conference win. And this bye week is coming at the perfect time for the team to rest up before hosting Auburn.