Mississippi State dominated Vanderbilt Saturday afternoon, winning by nearly 40 points.

The 45-6 win pushed the Bulldogs back on the positive side of .500 and brought their SEC record to 2-2, tied for 4th place in the West Division.

But even in victory, the Bulldogs found themselves making some of the same mistakes that burned them in losses to LSU and Memphis.

Mississippi State quarterback Will Rogers II ended the day with 384 passing yards and 4 touchdowns. However, Rogers threw two interceptions and probably should have thrown another which was (correctly) overturned on video review.

The Bulldogs’ defense clearly played well enough to keep the Commodores out of the end zone, but on one big play the coverage broke down, allowing for a fairly easy Commodores completion. Against a more talented opponent, that play probably winds up in the end zone.

I realize that this is a nit-picky topic because Mississippi State won easily and generally looked good doing it. However, against some of the remaining opponents, those kinds of mistakes will make winning more difficult.

As we’ve discussed before, it feels like the Bulldogs have a double personality. On one hand, they allow big plays, turn the ball over, and concede non-offensive touchdowns. On the other hand, they play disciplined on defense and patiently on offense.

Against Vanderbilt, it somehow felt like both sides of that personality were on display. Coaches typically love this kind of game because they get the big win, but they also have plenty of material to emphasize right after the game.

If someone wanted to argue that this game told us far more about just how far down Vanderbilt has fallen, that argument would hold a lot of water.

Despite the one big play allowed, overall it was an outstanding effort by the Bulldogs defense. That one 61-yard pass play from QB Mike Wright to Devin Boddie Jr accounted for nearly 40% of the total yards Vanderbilt gained.

On the ground, the Bulldogs held the two Vandy running backs (Rocko Griffin, Patrick Smith) to 14 yards on 8 carries, which is frankly astounding.

Offensively, Rogers put together a very typical stat line for him and MSU running backs Jo’quavious Marks and Dillon Johnson rushed 15 times for 67 yards, about 4.5 yards per carry combined. Those numbers are nearly exactly what you want in the Air Raid system, just enough to keep the defense paying attention.

Rogers spread the love to his playmakers, completing passes to 13 receivers, most of whom caught more than one ball from the signal-caller.

We must note that Rogers had one interception deep down the middle of the field in double coverage on 3rd and long from deep in his own territory. The Bulldogs would clearly prefer Rogers get the first down, but that kind of so-called “arm punt” doesn’t worry me much. He took a shot and probably gave the ball back to the Commodores about where it would have been on a punt.

However, the other interception and the near-interception will be points of emphasis moving forward.

It’s clear the Rogers still aches to throw the ball downfield, but teams continue to take that away. He must stay disciplined and not force the ball deep. It’s okay to throw the ball away and it’s okay to punt.

This week, Rogers completed only one pass that went for more than 30 yards, a 31-yard strike to Makai Polk. That’s a trend we’ve noticed all year and is an accurate representation of the Air Raid — a constant barrage of dink and dunk.

Regardless, the Bulldogs’ schedule gets hard again soon, starting with a game against a ranked Kentucky that is still very much alive for not only a New Year’s 6 bowl game, but even the SEC championship game (though I would bet on Georgia to finish strong). After Kentucky, MSU travels northwest to face upstart Arkansas and then across the plains to play ranked Auburn.

Mistakes such as giving up a huge play downfield and turning the ball over will not fly against MSU’s next three opponents.

In a weird way, the Vanderbilt and Alabama games are about the same. First, we can conclude that we didn’t learn a whole lot about the Bulldogs. Secondly, we did see that they have a lot to work on. Finally, those games were probably more about who the Bulldogs’ opponents were..