The last two weeks for the Mississippi State football program have been tough, to say the least. And unfortunately, things won’t get any easier moving forward.
After dropping two games that many MSU fans predicted to be in the ‘win’ column, the Bulldogs will now face a Texas A&M football team that just came off an impressive victory over No. 4 Florida. Yes, it’s nice that the game will be played inside Davis Wade Stadium in front a limited crowed, but at this point. I’m not too sure it will make any difference except helping to save us on money on gas, food and lodging.
Right now, the Mississippi State football program is in deep trouble that could have lasting effects on this this season and, ore importantly, future seasons. This program needs a deep look at where we stand as a team and where we want to be as a collective unit in the foreseeable future. To right this pirate ship, it will take some of the new coaching staff to swallow some pride, and for others to realize that what you have on hand today is all you need to win tomorrow.
So, let’s talk Hail State football with the Good, the Bad and the Ugly against Kentucky.
The Mississippi State defensive coordinator, Zach Arnett, has continued to develop a defensive plan based on the skills and talents of the players currently on the roster. Yes, the Bulldogs have a young defensive backfield. Yes, the Bulldogs lost some strength up front. Yet, that has not really affected our defensive performance so far. The reason why is because Arnett plans around the strengths of the defensive players to help offset areas where the Bulldogs are most inexperienced. Coach Arnett may have brought a new system to the Bulldog defense, but he quickly identified what players he currently had and developed his system around them.
How about controlling key aspects of the game in all three contests? This season, the Bulldogs have controlled the time of possession, total yards gained, third down conversions, fourth down conversions and so on. State has controlled just about every aspect of all three games, except one, and that is scoring the most points, and that falls directly on my main two topics in the ‘bad’ section.
Side note: Just in case you haven’t noticed, maybe due to a lack of use so far this season, we have a great kicker in Brandon Ruiz. Ruiz, an Arizona State transfer, has the leg to hit field goals beyond 50 yards and he pretty much eliminates kickoff returns with his deep kickoffs. But like a few valuable tools on this team, Ruiz has become one of those assets that rarely leave the sideline. Maybe he will see more action in the weeks to follow.
After the game Saturday night, I spoke to a very good friend of mine. He is a Mississippi State alum, and he compared Mike Leach to the movie character Ricky Bobby. You See. Ricky Bobby only knew how to drive fast, and to drive fast you have to drive a fast car like a Porsche because trucks are just too slow. Well, Coach Leach is used to his fast Porsche-like Air Raid offense, but unfortunately, when he accepted the coaching job at Mississippi State. he inherited a Chevy 2500 HD.
No matter how hard you push that truck, it will not go as fast as that Porsche. He must accept the fact that it will take some time to turn that heavy duty truck into a fast streamline sports car. Mississippi State currently has all the talent needed to win in this conference and to execute the Air raid offense. But to go completely Air Raid and abandon what the team and program was designed and recruited for, the Bulldogs will continue to give us what we witnessed these past two weeks.
It is time for Leach to adjust his Air Raid offense around his current players strengths, which would include a significant increase in the run game. In my opinion, State is going to have to make several adjustments moving forward. The Air Raid offense about 98% pass, whether it is down field or to a tail back in the flats, it is pretty much all pass. That’s not going to work here, at least with the current players on hand.
No, I am not saying abandon the Air Raid, but it must be complemented with an effective run game, and that includes the quarterback. Garrett Shrader has proven his ability to win in this conference. He may not be a true pro-style quarterback, but he does have a very good arm and can make all the throws he needs in this offense.
And with Shrader, the defense would no longer be able to drop eight into coverage because they would still have to cover the run. This is the only way I see State having a chance to win a few more game this season. To me, using a dual-threat quarterback like Shrader is almost a must to help offset the zone coverage.
I know Leach is known as the pirate with the eye patch and the ‘swing your sword’ slogan, and I think it is pretty cool to see all the flags and clothing to support our new head coach in his first year here in Starkville. However, I have one warning to him. He better have his starting quarterback walk the plank before he sinks the entire ship by the midseason mark. K.J. Costello has totally lost his confidence, and who can blame him? I believe he is upwards of 10 or more turnovers to include nine interceptions and two fumbles. That’s just plain ugly. And that would be hard for anyone to deal with, especially knowing that the Bulldogs are set to face their most difficult stretch of the season moving forward. Maybe a few games watching from the sideline will help him see the field better, but he needs to sit out next week.
Will Rogers looked pretty good and made some good throws. I can see him developing in this system over the next two seasons, but not this season. For one, he looks like he can’t take much punishment right now. He needs a year or two to get bigger and stronger before he’s sent into battle with teams like Alabama and Georgia. But it is obvious that he has a future in this system.
I have no doubt the Leach is a good football coach. I also believe he has a future here at Mississippi State, and I hope he does because if things don’t change, his career might end here in Starkville. I’m sure everyone can understand the responsibility of bringing in a player from another university and wanting him to succeed at the highest level, and coach Leach has definitely shown that. But this team and this university are both bigger than just one person or one player. It is clear that the foreseeable future of this team will rely on our coaches’ abilities or inabilities to make appropriate changes to put the Bulldogs in a position for future success.
Please give me your thoughts on what you think went well and not so well against Kentucky.
HAIL STATE and Go Dawgs!!!