Sometimes I wonder just how this program has gone from being very competitive in the SEC West to being, well, not. Please correct me if I am wrong, but we were picked to be a top-15 team heading into the 2018 season, right? I mean, this program was just about as high as it has ever been outside of the 2014 team that was ranked No. 1 in the nation for five straight weeks. So how does a program in that condition fall this quick with no end in sight?
When Joe Moorhead arrived in Starkville, he inherited a very established team that included a top-5, nationally-ranked defense and an offense led by quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, who set the conference rushing record for a quarterback. Along with Fitzgerald, the offense had additional threats in Kylin Hill and the No. 1 junior college wide receiver Stephen Guidry. This team was loaded and in position for big things.
So why am I saying things we all already know? Well, because I just want everyone to understand that this coaching staff did not take over a project program that needed two or three years to develop, but rather an established team that needed a quality coach to take the reigns. This was a great opportunity for any new head coach, and I understand why Moorhead jumped in with both feet, but this is not the Big Ten. We play defense down here in the SEC and up until this season, Mississippi State had one of the best in this league.
This week we will go on the road to College Station, Texas, to play the Texas A&M Aggies in one of the most hostile environments in college football. We will face a team that is facing some issues of their own on both offense and defense, but the Aggies get the benefit of holding the home-field advantage. It is time for this staff to show that they are capable of getting this team mentally and physically prepared for a four-quarter game on both sides of the ball and to play with passion and relentless effort for 60 minutes no matter what the score is on the board. No quit, just plain old physical, in your face Mississippi State football to the last second. If our coaching staff can get this team to do this, win or lose, then maybe we can turn this program around before it is too late. So let’s Talk Hail State Football, the Good the Bad and the Ugly of Week 8 against LSU.
Garrett Shrader is only a freshman and has already shown that he can handle the heat against one of the nation’s top football programs. The future is bright for the young quarterback and for the Bulldogs with Shrader under center for the next few years.
The defense holding LSU’s explosive offense to only nine points on three trips to the red zone: This was a pleasant surprise, I must admit. I also think LSU was a little surprised as well. It was easy to tell there was more urgency on the defensive side of the ball and that Coach Shoop put together a defensive plain to stop the Tigers’ run game and maybe even some of the passing game. But then we scored and well, da bad!!
There is no doubt we came into this game with a defensive plan, and it showed for the first quarter and a half. The thing is that the plan must be able to adjust with the opposing teams’ offense, and it didn’t. When LSU decided to attack through the air, our defensive backfield suddenly looked lost on their coverage assignments.
On the long touchdown pass in the second quarter, our linebacker left the receiver who scored the touchdown to cover a wideout that already had a corner in tight coverage. I am sure it was an assignment mistake, but it almost looked intentional to how obvious the misread was.
I know that there was some discussion about how good practice was during the week because both Moorhead and Athletic Director John Cohen talked about it on the “Paul Finebaum show” in Starkville. The only problem was that it did not carry over to the game, at least not for the offense. I mean, surely those two double-reverse plays were not supposed to be the game changers, right? I like both plays because they reminded me of when I was in high school. I really hope that is not what you get these days for $3 million per year!!!! And how about that flea flicker? “Ho My Goodness.”
Running trick plays in a struggling offense is a sign of desperation, and it looked bad, plus they didn’t do much in terms of yardage.
The run game: We have to find a way to run the ball and junior running back Kylin Hill needs to pick a hole and just run. He needs to quit with all the dancing around. Every time he stops, the defense just closes in on him. I know he is just trying to make a big play, but I think he is hurting himself with the stop-and-go moves on just about every touch of the ball.
As mentioned above, we have to get the defensive backfield fixed. I understand losing Maurice Smitherman hurt, but the blown coverages are way bigger than just one player. The linebackers and defensive backs just look confused out there. It is becoming clear that opposing teams are using that against us, especially with the tight end position. Those guys are receivers too, ya know!
HAIL STATE AND GO DAWGS.