Mississippi State football: Air Raid crashes again, prompting questions of Mike Leach's offense
There’s no way that Mike Leach, K.J. Costello and anyone involved with the Mississippi State football program could even imagine what was coming on Saturday night in Lexington. In fact, possibly no now saw what was coming from the Bulldogs offense.
If Arkansas solved State’s Air Raid attack last week, Kentucky completely buried it. It wasn’t even close.
Let’s just take a look at the stats. Costello, who looked like an All-American against LSU in the opener and then came back to Earth against the Razorbacks with 3 interceptions, finished 36-of-55 on passing attempts. Not bad, until you look a bit further. Costello passed for 232 yards for 4.2 yards per completion, 0 touchdowns and, gulp, 4 interceptions.
This isn’t what Leach imagined when bringing Costello in from Stanford as a graduate transfer.
With Costello struggling, in came Will Rogers. Once again, his completion percentage — 9-of-15 — isn’t bad, but there again are the real facts: 43 yards, or 2.9 per completion, 0 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.
Mark Stoops’ defense had the advantage of watching what Arkansas did last week but the Wildcats performed that task even better. With major focus put on Bulldogs’ running back Kylin Hill, Kentucky allowed him to catch 15 passes yet the All-SEC back gained just 79 yards on those receptions. As for the running game with Hill, that was an afterthought. State gained just 20 yards on 14 carries during the game; Hill had 17 yards on 7 carries.
As far as getting the ball to their playmakers, State could never get that done. Osirus Mitchell, who looked like a complete game changer in the win against LSU, finished with 2 receptions for 3 yards. Tyrell Shavers, another explosive weapon for Leach on the outside, caught 4 passes for 18 yards.
So where does Leach go from here? Well, it won’t get any easier. Matchups against Texas A&M and Alabama are next on the slate. Following a game against Vanderbilt, tough pass defenses in Auburn and Georgia, probably tops in the nation, await.
Leach has been here before but maybe not at this level. It could be that Kentucky has one of the top passing defenses in the nation yet its performance against Ole Miss just last week makes that difficult to argue. It could be that Costello isn’t the right man for Leach, even after that debut against a LSU defense that has proven to be worse than ever imagine. It could be … well … it could be a lot of things. SEC defenses seeing film? More speed on defense than Leach’s system is used to? Not the correct players to run this system?
All I know is Kentucky made Leach’s Air Raid attack look silly and, for the second week, the system just didn’t work. Trust me on this: Leach won’t change a thing about how he goes about running his offense but he will make adjustments. We will have to wait and see how those ultimately work out.