Let’s Talk Hail State
It is starting to seem like this year is going to be known as the year of the heart break. A season that started with so much hype and promise that surrounded a team loaded with talent and experience on both sides of the ball, the same team that finished last year with a 9-4 record, including a victory over Louisville in the Gator Bowl.
Yes, this was going to be the year that Mississippi State established themselves as a true contender in the SEC West and a national threat in college football. With what was seen as the best hire in the 2018 coaching carousel with Joe Moorhead, a highly rated offensive coordinator from Penn State, the Bulldogs were set to make their championship run this season.
But here we are, going into week nine with three SEC losses under our belt while staring down the remainder of our schedule that includes Texas A&M and #1 ranked Alabama. It is pretty clear that the Bulldogs will not be in any discussions involving championships this season.
At this point there are more questions than answers concerning this team. So, LETS TALK HAIL STATE: the GOOD the BAD and the UGLY of week eight: LSU.
The Mississippi State defense is without a doubt the best front seven in college football (Yes, that includes you too Alabama). Time and time again this season the Bulldog defense has shown their ability to stop the run and get after the quarterback. Last Saturday night was no different down in Baton Rouge, where our defense dominated the LSU offensive line.
LSU coach Ed Oregon stated in his post-game press conference that their offensive line could not block Jeffery Simmons and that they had trouble with him the entire game. This was a true statement except for one minor detail... the LSU offensive line couldn’t block anyone on Mississippi States defensive front which held the Tigers to nine rushing yards in the first half. That, my friend, is pure dominance. I have never seen any defense hold a top five national ranked team to so few rushing yards in one half and it was very impressive.
Another good was the Cameron Dantzler interception in the second quarter. This was a bright spot on the night, and showed how the defensive back field has continued to grow and learn this season. The actions taken after the interception (Well, not so much) leading us to the BAD of week eight.
On to the BAD:
It is not easy to choose between the Bad and the Ugly from this week’s performance, but I will try as best I can. Let’s begin where we left off in the good. After Dantzler intercepted the pass in the end zone, he tried to run out while already being grasped by the LSU receiver and came within inches of giving up 2 points. That would have been really bad, and at this point in the season any form of assistance to an opposing team is very bad, along those white helmets. Is it possible to just stick to the dark maroon helmets moving forward for the betterment of the team and fan base? AMEN!
In case you didn’t already know, our offensive production is horrible and I will talk a lot more about that in the Ugly section. One reason for that lack of production is that, our wide receivers don’t seem to be playing from the same play book as the rest of the team. In the first drive against LSU, Nick Fitzgerald threw an interception in the first offensive series. The bad thing about that pick (outside of the obvious) was that the ball went right in front of the receivers eyes and he ducked under it as if he was playing dodge ball. What the Heck?The second interception which was a lateral pass to the flats, the receiver looked like he didn’t even move out of his stance and the defender just moved around him. Excuse Me Please I’ll Take That! This is crazy and I don’t understand how this happens at this level.
I just want everyone to understand before we get to the Ugly, and start pointing fingers around, is that there are multiple things wrong on the offense side of the ball, not just one player. So stop putting everything on Nick Fitzgerald, he deserves better than that from the fanbase.
By the way, did I mention those white helmets those need to go? Like Now!
You guessed it, the OFFENSE. Anytime a team has four turnovers in a game, the outcome tends to be marked up in the loss column. Nick Fitzgerald had his worst game to date wearing the maroon and white, and it was hard to watch. It is clear that Fitzgerald is struggling in the passing game and in no way even resembles the Fitzgerald of last year. At this point I feel that he is focused more on not throwing an interception, which leads to more of them, rather than focusing on the receiver. He is truly overwhelmed and has a ton of pressure on him as the quarterback and it is beginning to show in his performance. Everything I just stated is true, but in no way should Fitzgerald carry all the blame for the offensive failure Mississippi State is currently experiencing. I will address a few things that I see as contributing factors to the offensive struggles outside of the quarterback play.
First, the receivers need to run better routes and be prepared to catch the ball in this system. This is not high school where most pass plays consist of a single target. At the Division-One level there are multiple options for the quarterback. So, when he pulls the trigger the receiver must be prepared to catch or fight for the ball, and lately I have seen little to no effort for either.
Play calling. I understand that Nick Fitzgerald is big and strong, but running the ball thirty plus times a game is not strategic or even beneficial for the team. Lining him up in the back field alone when he is struggling in the pass game pretty much tells everyone that he is either running the ball, up the middle no less or passing, Not Hard to Identify! But the icing on the cake was lining him up in the back field alone and running him three straight times on the goal line gaining nothing. That series of plays set the tone of the game for our offense and their defense.
Coaching. Yes, if I can criticize a player or young man that is making nothing I can criticize a coach making millions. During the post-game press conference Moorhead stated that you can’t run the ball all the time and I agree to a point. Yet, that point is you can run the ball until they figure out how to stop it which LSU never did. This team can run the ball on any team in the country and with a good and effective SHORT, I will say it again, SHORT passing game that will keep a defense honest in containing the pass. Pretty much all Mississippi State fans, would love to have a quick strike pass offense, but we are not currently built for that at this time, so why try and force it.
I was never a big Dan Mullen fan, but I will swallow my pride and say this, if he was still here today, this team would be undefeated and sitting comfortably at #2 in the country. Why do I think that? Because he understood what this team was capable of and designed an offense based on that, a little vanilla at time but effective. If you don’t believe me, then just go back and watch what we did against Alabama last year with our run game! It is important to note that we have the same team today that we did in that game... just more experienced. Just Saying!