"They are who we thought they were" - Dennis Green, and also probably Dan Mullen today
I doubt many of us were surprised by today's outcome, as the Mississippi State Bulldogs racked up 556 total yards of offense and 51 points to dismantle the Alcorn State Braves 51-7. Even so, all of us were glad to see that expected result come to fruition, and at the hands of so many on the Bulldog roster.
State didn't waste time getting in the endzone after not being able to do so last week against Oklahoma State, as the Bulldogs scored on their first two drives of the game's opening quarter. State would then go on to tack on three more touchdowns in the half, and the route was officially on, as State eased into the half with a commanding 37-0 lead. That lead would be all State would need, but they still added another two touchdowns in the second half to Alcorn State's one, and a final score of 51-7 in the season's home opener was in the books.
Things to take away
- There's no denying that Dak Prescott handled his first start as well as he could have today. The sophomore was 12-for-19 for 171 yards and 2TDs, highlighted by a perfect touch pass to Jameon Lewis up the right sideline to push the lead out to 34-0 just before halftime. Even though it was against a greatly inferior opponent, Prescott did all that was asked of him, and managed the game very effectively. We also very early on got to see a flash of the running aspect that he brings to the offense as he kept on a read to score from 10 yards out on the opening drive for State.
- These freshman will be hard to keep off the field. The class of 2013 was all over the field for MSU Saturday, highlighted first and foremost by Ashton Shumpert's 98 yard, two touchdown effort. Shumpert was rumored to be getting a look this weekend, and he seized the moment, powering over Alcorn State defenders, and racking up nearly a 100 yard effort in his first ever collegiate game. Also on the stat sheet today were Fred Ross and De'Runnya Wilson, who combined for five catches and 77 yards, and Chris Jones, who drew a start at DT. It's unclear how Mullen will use these freshman going forward, but one thing is clear after today: It will be hard to keep them off the field for the final ten games.
Things to not take away
- Prescott as the clear starter. I know after today that it is so tempting to declare Dak Prescott the undisputed starter going forward. But, if we are being honest with ourselves and making non-rash judgements, we do need to factor in that today was against a much weaker FCS opponent. That is absolutely not a knock on how Dak or anyone else played today, but it is an important factor when one decides in their mind who should start next week. It does however seem that there is a growing exposure to what Dak can bring to this offense, and I think it would be unwise to shut that down for the remainder of the year, should Tyler be able to go, simply because Tyler is the senior and preseason starter in this offense. I, at the least, hope to see extended use and specific packages (NOT JUST A THIRD AND TWO DIVE UP THE GUT) for Dak, to shake things up a bit in the game. And if I'm Mullen, I'm telling the media all week that both will play. Why not make Auburn prepare for two QBs instead of one.
- The offense is fixed. Again, this is along the lines of my first point in this section, but let's not jump to conclusions that all of our offensive woes are now healed. Today was supposed to be like playing NCAA football on easy, and it did turn out that way. That needs to stay in the back of our minds following today's game. Although things certainly seem to be in much better shape than they were this time last week, I will be very interested to see if the offense can carry that momentum to Auburn next weekend and find the success they did today in front of 80,000+ screaming All-In'ers next Saturday.
Infographic (Seriously, these are awesome. Well done Nibbler and company)
infographic via Mississippi State University | HailState.com
Now that the fun is over and the the home opener is in the books, the focus quickly turns to the SEC opener next weekend at Auburn. State was able to get the Auburn monkey off their back last year by beating the Tigers at home. But this is a different Auburn team, with a new coach, a new scheme, and new life breathed into a program that had gone from a championship in 2010 to chasing their coach out of town in 2012. Even if Auburn hasn't really played a strong opponent so far, it's safe to assume that the Tigers are greatly improved from last year, and that MSU is in for a battle just as tough as 2009 or 2011 when they head to the plains on Saturday.
Even though today was refreshing, it may have raised more questions than it provided answers. Who should start next week? If Tyler is healthy, how will Mullen and Koenning find a way to work Dak in that isn't obvious? Will the freshman that stood out today get significant playing time going forward? And -- in what may be one of the biggest questions -- can Mississippi State win a big game on the road in a place where they haven't won since 2007? State was within inches of a win in 2011, but the days of being satisfied with so close are gone. State fans, including myself, will look to see if Mullen, Prescott, Perkins, and that rejuvenated defense can go to Auburn and get a big win against a solid opponent.
After today, I feel more confident in the possibility of that. If you had asked me last Sunday, I might have told you different. But after today, I put my guarded hope and trust into this team and into the notion that they will carry with them the momentum and play that they put forth today into Auburn next weekend.