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Five Takeaways: Mississippi State’s Loss to South Alabama

South Alabama v Mississippi State Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images

Mississippi State shouldn’t have lost on Saturday, but they did. The Bulldogs came out flat, and despite taking a 17-0 lead into halftime, they came away flat in the second half. Because of that, Mississippi State lost the game. Here’s what I took away from it:

Dan Mullen’s play calling will need to drastically improve

If the Bulldogs want to turn this season around, Mississippi State’s offense will need to be significantly sharper than what we saw against South Alabama. At times, the offense actually did look sharp, and it featured some innovative calls here and there. But there were long stretches in the second half where the offense just appeared to be incredibly vanilla and bland.

And this can actually apply to Peter Sirmon and the defense too. With the way that the secondary was carved up, particularly in the second half, something has to be done to get more disruptive pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

At times, the front seven looked just as suspect as the secondary did

Coming into this season, I was excited about the potential strength of this front seven. Leaving Davis Wade Stadium after a disappointing second half? Well, not so much. This unit is talented and deep, but as the game wore on, they couldn’t get consistent disruptive pressure. Jeffery Simmons returning to the field may help alleviate this some, but the defense can’t rely on Simmons alone to change them.

Special teams play was a microcosm of the entire game

Everything looked fine with special teams play to start the game. Much like how everything looked fine with the Bulldogs, for the most part, in the first half. Moving into the second half, things started to change. Both for special teams and then also for just about everything else.

The blocked punt early was slightly concerning, but with the offense clicking with Damian Williams in the first half, I could brush that aside. And then there was the muffed punt. That terrified me and brought back nightmares from the many muffed punts of 2014. And then, for whatever reason, field goal issues became real again. Westin Graves shouldn’t have been in that position, but that’s where he was. I won’t blame this game on Graves, special teams, or any other player, but hopefully Graves is ready for the rest of the season. We’ve got quite a few field goals left to kick, and outside of Saturday, he’s had a solid career thus far.

The running back situation is still confusing

Brandon Holloway is a very fast individual. But he isn’t made to run up the middle. And Dan Mullen disagrees with that thought process, for whatever reason. We saw moments of promise from Holloway, a few solid runs from Ashton Shumpert, and Aeris Williams even made a few appearances, but it looked remarkably similar to last season.

Holloway was held to 12 yards on a half dozen carries in the third and fourth quarters. Aeris Williams, Ashton Shumpert and Keith Mixon had 1 carry apiece in this time frame. I’m not blaming Holloway for this. South Alabama simply knew that he was coming. A lack of diversity of offensive play calling more or less did a disservice to Holloway, and ultimately to the fans. Mixing in Aeris Williams, Shumpert, Dontavian Lee, and sweeps from the trio of Myles, Gray, and Ross could do wonders for this offense. At the very least it would make me feel better.

Mississippi State fans will be haunted by this for a while. Dan Mullen should be haunted by it too.

This isn’t a loss that Bulldog fans will get over at anytime in the foreseeable future. And this might be a loss that will ultimately come back to bite Dan Mullen in the butt. Mullen is currently on a losing streak in the Egg Bowl. He’s had a hard time beating upper echelon teams in the SEC. But we could always count on him to win the games he was supposed to. He can’t hang his hat on that anymore.

This season is already starting to look like a mess, and people are calling for Mullen to be fired as soon as possible. While I believe that these calls are a bit premature, Mullen will need to do something to calm the fans and appease the masses. A win over South Carolina is the first step in the right direction. A dominant performance would do wonders for fans. But if Mississippi State goes on a losing streak, things might heat up even further for Dan Mullen.

Those are my five takeaways. What are yours?