The sun has risen on the 2017 college football season, and Mississippi State had their Wheaties and morning coffee. The Bulldogs were unfazed en route to a 49-0 victory over Charleston Southern to commence the year.
With the exception of an occasional minor miscue, State made everything easy on themselves. Sure, it was an FCS team, but you could detect improvements from last year without any difficulty. In fact, as far as I am concerned, the Bulldogs did more than expected in this game.
We anticipated improvement from the defense. A year ago, it seemed as if we placed eleven scarecrows on the field and expected them to make stops. This past Saturday, however, those scarecrows turned into mafia members with machine guns. We would expect them to be able to stop an FCS team, but this defensive performance blew away any presumptions we could have.
The Buccaneers' yardage was equivalent to someone finding a couple of nickels and dimes underneath a couch. They were able to scrape up 18 yards on the ground and 15 through the air, adding up to a whopping 33 yards. Charleston Southern ran 47 plays on Saturday, which gave them an average of 0.7 yards per play. That just happens to be the fewest number of yards per play Mississippi State has given up in the 113-season history of the program.
Moreover, four of State's 49 points came as a result of two safeties, something that first-year coordinator Todd Grantham "doesn't ever recall" occurring over the course of his coaching career.
It's blatant that the defense has improved dramatically, and although we did play an FCS team, this performance was pretty impressive against an offense that averaged 33 points per game and 410 yards per game a year ago.
We had a solid showing offensively. It was a ho-hum day for Nick Fitzgerald, who completed 16 of his 29 passes for 239 yards and two touchdowns, in addition to rushing for 41 yards and a touchdown from seven carries. Fitz definitely got the job done, but he still has room for improvement through the air.
The running game was stout, with Aeris Williams compiling 83 yards and a touchdown from 16 carries. The offensive line does have some question marks, such as a tall number of bad snaps from the center, but that could get better as the season progresses.
But, above all of this, the new faces on the team made names for themselves. Kylin Hill, the true freshman running back out of Columbus, rushed for 62 yards from nine carries. Nick Gibson, a sophomore running back, rushed for 41 yards from six carries.
Furthermore, many young receivers found themselves with significant contributions to the Bulldogs' victory. Sophomore tight end Farrod Green caught 68 yards worth of passes from two receptions. Donald Gray is the Memphis receiver everybody knows, but Deddrick Thomas — a sophomore receiver out of Memphis — caught two passes for 34 yards and a touchdown. Finally, freshman wideout Reggie Todd caught three passes for 24 yards.
It is absolutely phenomenal to see that we have receiving threats outside of the usual suspects, Donald Gray and Gabe Myles (who had solid performances in their own right). In addition, Kylin Hill and Nick Gibson could be meaningful contributors to the running game this season. The young faces on offense absolutely stepped up to the plate, and instead of blooping a single in shallow centerfield, they hit home runs.
Entering the season, Mississippi State fans expected big things out of the 2017 Bulldog squad. The schedule could be a hindrance, and question marks at certain positions may hold them back, but the performance this team posted on Saturday gives State fans optimism.
Sure, it was an FCS team. Sure, it was just week one. But, in the early going of this football season, Mississippi State has exceeded expectations.