STARKVILLE, Miss. — Head football coach Mike Leach answered questions from the media following Saturday’s 21-14 loss to Arkansas in the home opener at Davis Wade Stadium.
Overall, the Arkansas defense was stout and never let the Bulldogs get into a rhythm. The Bulldogs passed for 313 yards and rushed for 87 yards for a total of 400 yards, but the Bulldogs couldn’t overcome several miscues and turnovers.
“It really didn’t feel like it was Arkansas as much as [us],” Leach said. “I want to give them all the credit in the world, and they deserve the credit. I thought they played harder than we did, and I also thought they played one play after the next a little better than we did. I think some of our inconsistency was revealed, but Arkansas gets credit for the win for sure. A lot of our wounds were self-inflicted. One after the next, we had self-inflicted wounds. That starts with coaches and me as well.”
As far as turnovers, Costello threw three interceptions and a key fourth-quarter fumble on a punt return all but ended the game.
“I didn’t think we read the field very well. Most of our problems out there, whether offense, defense or special teams, our eyes weren’t in the right place,” Leach said. “That’s just simple technique. We’re not experienced enough or talented enough to get by without doing things specifically right. We have to get that out of the way.”
Star running back Kylin Hill rushed once for seven yards before a hard hit sidelined him for the remainder of the game. We don’t have any info on the extent of the injury at this time, though.
”I can’t update his condition,” Leach said. “I thought that the young backs did admirable as far as not having played very much. I don’t have a perfect knowledge of how much they’ve played in the past, but I know it’s not very much. I did think it was pretty good being pressed into service there. It’s something to build on.”
Freshmen running backs Jo’quavious Marks and Dillon Johnson filled in for Hill. Marks finished with 10 carries for 37 yards and 10 catches for 50 yards. Johnson added nine rushes for 39 yards and a touchdown and eight catches for 35 yards.
The Bulldogs had multiple chances to tie the game late, including two fourth-and-1 plays that MSU failed to capitalize on.
“I wished I had kicked it both times in hindsight,” Leach said. “We had some success running it against them. It wasn’t terribly imposing. We knew they were going to try and pinch. I felt like we could move them, but on those last two, I was wrong. I thought our offensive line could move their defensive line. If we are going to continue going for it on fourth down, our offensive line better be able to move them. Otherwise, we are going to kick every time.”
The Mississippi State defense allowed 212 yards passing and 103 yards rushing. They also had a few blown coverages that allowed the Razorbacks to pick up some big yards, but overall Leach thinks the defense did well.
“I thought they played pretty well. Other than giving up some of the explosive [plays] and some miscommunication,” Leach said. “We could have adjusted to their tempo better. The defense did tighten up and play quite well. I didn’t think defensively we played nearly as well as we can. We played well enough to win.”
The Razorbacks dropped almost eight players into coverage every time, but Leach said it’s something he expected.
“They had done that on film. We thought there was a very good chance they would do that,” Leach said. “You just have to keep the ball in play and steadily keep it in play. I thought we went downfield too much and tried to make too much happen. [We] threw one into double coverage, and we jumped up and got it. I’m not sure that didn’t affect our mindset to where we are going to do too much of that. The underneath stuff was there all day, and we didn’t capitalize on that.”