We went back to the Bama gameplan...
and it got the same results. Mullen has brought Mississippi State to new heights this season, but his play calling in the two biggest games of the year was sub par. Running Dak up the middle works on average and even good defenses, but not great defenses like Alabama and Ole Miss. Running Dak 24 times Saturday night when it wasn't working is just not good play calling. They go to that play way way way too much. If it's 3rd and five or less, teams pretty much know it's coming. At some point, you have to trust your Heisman trophy contender and wide receivers to go make plays on 3rd downs.
The defense needs to go back to the drawing board
That includes everyone from the coaches to the players. We'll start with the coaching, which was just as bad as the offensive coaching was. Ole Miss had ONE player that was hurting you in the passing game, and you didn't even attempt to make an adjustment. Instead, you decide to let a backup linebacker that has gotten beat all year long try to cover him, and he gets beat. Nothing against Zach Jackson, but he has no business covering Evan Ingram. That is just horrible, horrible coaching. With that said, the coaches can't be on the field making tackles. The effort by the players was not there at all. That was easily the worst tackling performance of the season, with little attempt to wrap up at all. When you let a running back that weighs 170 pounds soaking wet bounce off of you and go 90 yards to the house, you know you've hit rock bottom. You can't give up that many big plays and expect to win on the road. It's also surprising that the coaches weren't ready for the trick plays like the reverse runs and the halfback pass. They should have known Hugh Freeze would pull out every trick in the bag to try and win this game.
Tip of the cap to Ashton Shumpert and De'Runnya Wilson
With all of the pitiful performances against the Rebs, one of the bright spots was Ashton Shumpert. He was able to break loose on a couple of runs and showed he has some speed to go along with his power. He finished the game with 68 yards on ten carries, good for 6.8 yards per carry, and also had a reception for eight yards. He can certainly be the every down back if he ever needs to take over that role. With him, J-Rob, and Aeris Williams all back next year, we should see a lot of production from the running back position. De'Runnya keeps showing flashes of an NFL receiver. He finished with eight catches for 117 yards and had an unbelievable Sportscenter top 10 catch for a touchdown. Say what you want about his inconsistency, but he has showed up and showed out in the big time games this season. He has set his self up to have a monster junior season.
Home field advantage matters more than anything else in this rivalry
I don't know what it is, but away teams just can't ever win the Egg Bowl anymore. Since the game moved out of Jackson and back to campus, the home team has won 19 out of 24 times. In the last 16 meetings, the home team is now 14-2. Unless one team is just dominantly better than the other, the home team usually wins. And even if one is dominant, the home team has had a good chance of pulling off the upset. I guess the good news for State fans is that it returns to Starkville next year, so revenge is only 363 days away.
At the end of the day, it was still a great season
Yes, your SEC West and national championship hopes all came crashing down at the same time in Oxford. Yes, your Heisman trophy contender couldn't quite do enough to win the trophy. Yes, you lost bragging rights against your rival for an entire year. But when the dust has settled, you have to sit back and realize how great of a season this was in Mississippi State history. 10 regular season wins is unchartered territory for Mississippi State football, and it's far more wins than the Croom era saw. It could be a lot worse, trust me. A win in the bowl game to finish 11-2 would take the sour taste out of a lot of people's mouth. If you aren't happy with an 11-2 season, I don't know what to tell you. It's hard to go from 7-6 to undefeated the very next season. It's a process, and the Bulldogs are clearly progressing to where they want to be. Dan Mullen has taken his team to five straight bowl games, and he is slowly but surely building a championship program.