Mississippi State football: In loss, Bulldogs showed they still have fire
We might never know what went on during the last two weeks in the Mississippi State football facility but it appears that a light finally went on in the quarterback room.
Departing from the K.J. Costello experiment for the second game in a row, Mike Leach put all of his chips for the rest of the season in true freshman Will Rogers. On Saturday, against a Georgia defense that has über talent at all positions, the quarterback played the best game of his young career.
Rogers looked like a cool, calm veteran, completing 41-of-52 passes for 336 yards and a touchdown. More important, he didn’t turn the ball over and used every weapon he had, completing passes to 10 different players. If the rest of the season is an audition for him to become Leach’s quarterback in the future — and a competition should definitely be held next fall — it started out with a bang.
Yet the real story of this game was the fight that the Bulldogs showed. Going into Athens and playing Georgia is never easy. Doing it with only 49 available players and so much drama going on around the program between the COVID-19 cases and mass exodus of players, yet coming up just short in a 31-24 loss? Quite incredible.
For the first time since possibly the season opener against LSU, Leach’s team had a fire in the belly. They showed a fight that had been missing.
This might be where you stop and say, “Wait, didn’t they allow 401 passing yards to a quarterback who had seemingly been deemed not worthy to play until now?” Well, yes. But unlike other games, there was no head-hanging on the sidelines.
All those yards and touchdowns by Georgia’s J.T. Daniels were met with a punch from the MSU offense. Two weeks ago, Georgia putting 17 points on the board in the second quarter would have certainly spelled doom for this team.
So what happened? First, we have to consider that the guys who want to be a part of the program are still there. Mississippi State could have easily postponed Saturday’s game because it did not have 53 scholarship players available. But, already having missed last week’s game against Auburn because of positive coronavirus tests, Leach and his troops were ready to go.
All of the opt outs and players that decided to transfer might have strengthened the bond among those who stayed in Starkville. This team has been through it all in the past 3 months, with COVID-19 taking its hits and the team struggling on the field. It certainly wasn’t how many drew the 2020 season up for the Bulldogs and, at times, it looked like they just quit.
Not on Saturday night. Under some of the worst circumstances possible, Rogers and company stood toe-to-toe with Georgia and perhaps garnered some momentum for the rest of the season.