Report Card: Miss. State
Handing out grades from the Bulldogs 45-31 win over Kentucky.
The Bulldogs offense put up 38 points, but they weren’t always sharp. Their huge running numbers (326 yards, 6.4 yards per carry) were aided by Kentucky’s complete inability to tackle all afternoon, piling up a large percentage of their yards after contact. Prescott had his worst game throwing the ball this season, going 18-for-33 for 216 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He was inaccurate with some of his throws downfield, missing receivers long on several occasions. While the interception wasn’t his fault necessarily, as he got hit hard while releasing the ball, but he put the ball on the ground twice on quarterback keepers. He recovered both of them, but those kinds of mistakes will come back to bite a team eventually.
Mississippi State gave up more than 500 yards to the Wildcats, and they did it in a variety of ways. Patrick Towles hit on a bunch of deep passes — the Bulldogs’ biggest weakness — including a 67-yard touchdown early on. Towles gave them fits on the ground as well, rushing for 23 times for 76 yards on the night. Mississippi State shut down the rest of the Wildcats’ running game, limiting all other ball-carriers to 27 yards on nine carries. One positive for a secondary that got burned for 401 yards through the air: the defensive backs were very good at breaking up passes. They were able to break up at least three passes that would have resulted in huge gains without the deflections, with Jamerson Love picking up at least two of them.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B+
Freshman Logan Cooke came into the game in the second quarter for a 42-yard field goal try, with Dan Mullen trusting his big leg, but Cooke badly missed to the left, costing Mississippi State points that didn’t end up factoring into the final score. The Bulldogs more than made up for it in the fourth quarter, though. Towles got the game within 38-31 with a quarterback keeper, and Kentucky had the opportunity to try an onside kick from the 50 after a penalty on MSU. The kick bounced right to Christian Jones, who outran everyone to the end zone to ice the game.
The porous pass defense is still an issue for the Bulldogs, and it’s something Dan Mullen and Geoff Collins need to tighten up. Mississippi State stuck with what they did well, and the coaching staff helped get them in a rhythm and shake off any jitters with runs early in the game.
It certainly wasn’t their strongest game of the season, but Mississippi State did enough to get the win and register their first win as the No. 1 team in the country. The offense needs to tighten up its ball security, while the defense must find a way to stop hemorrhaging yards through the air. Mississippi State didn’t look as good as they did in its three straight wins over top-10 opponents, but they were good enough to get a 14-point win.