Mississippi State football fans will need some time to forget this year’s Egg Bowl against rival Ole Miss. This was one of those nights that if it could go wrong it did. It started with the loss of star quarterback Nick Fitzgerald on states second possession. Fitz had dislocated his right ankle and it looked bad, I mean this was one of the times I wish I did not have HD cable bad. The Bulldogs fought hard under new leadership, with freshman quarterback Keytaon Thompson, but fell short at the end of the game. It was a hard loss to swallow; Mississippi State should have won this game by two scores at least. In a season that showed so much promise and with such a talented team this loss cut deep. Yet the real knife stabbed us in the back just four days later when Coach Dan Mullen accepted the head coaching job at the University of Florida. This was a move that shocked many fans after hearing so many times how much he and his family loved Mississippi State and wanted to stay. I for one never lost a wink of sleep over the move and this is why.
Coach Mullen deserves a lot of praise for his development of the Mississippi State football program. The best way to say it, is he took Mississippi State football from a below average program to an above average program in the SEC and that is no easy task. He also got the players and fans to expect to win more than they would lose, and I believe that is where the problem began. If you look at his nine years at State he won the games he should have won and lost games he was expected to lose. There were some key victories in 2014 against LSU, Auburn, and Texas A&M, but for the most part Mississippi State was a middle to lower tier team in the SEC West Division. The issue was that as long as the football program went bowling, the fans and the program directors were happy, and that mentality is not good if you want to win championships.
During this past season, Mississippi State fielded arguably the best all-around team in Mullen’s tenure. The defense was stacked and had depth in every key position. The offense had potential to be dangerous but lacked a down field threat at receiver, yet had the ability to move the ball on any team in the country. The biggest issue with the offense was predictability; Mullen’s offense consisted of too many quarterback draws and screen passes. 80 percent of the short yardage plays were quarterback draws between the tackles. In addition to predictability the offense never matured. In 2017 the bulldogs were running the same plays as in the previous eight years, nothing new. It was easy to plan against it, and the only thing that changed was the position players. In 2016 Dak Prescott was a better passer, but in 2017 Fitzgerald was a better runner which is a slight adjustment for the two defensive fronts. The difference in wins and losses came down to whether the opposing team could handle both our offensive and defensive lines. If they could they won, if they could not they lost, plain and simple.
So how does this all change for Coach Joe Moorhead? Well it is all about mentality for which he established on day one. The first question he asked the players was if they knew their ring size. He also told Nick Fitzgerald he was going to get him a Heisman trophy. Coach Moorhead is challenging his team to excel and is setting the example that losing is not acceptable from day one. He inherits a very talented team in 2018 and has recruited talented receivers to add another dimension to the offensive attack. His spread run pass option offense with multiple backs will give defenses nightmares with the talent we have in all three phases. Another aspect that gives Coach Moorhead an advantage is experience, this is not his first head coaching job and he understands how to set the stage. Look forward to a very explosive offense in 2018 complemented with a top ten defense. No matter what the analysts might say from now until opening day, this team has the talent and the coaching to win the SEC title next season. So put back a few dollars because there might be a few extra road games in 2018.