Mississippi State football: Grading Bulldogs from Bowl Danger Zone
The Mississippi State football team has entered the Danger Zone. Coming into the season, many were wondering which bowl game the Bulldogs would be playing in. Now, the Joe Moorhead-led Dawgs are wondering if it will make a bowl game at all.
Saturday in College Station, Texas, the Texas A&M Aggies (5-3, 3-2 SEC) beat Mississippi State in every facet of the game and routed their maroon-and-white counterparts 49-30.
While the score looks like the teams were separated by only 19 points, it wasn’t that close. A&M ran out to a 14-point lead in the 1st quarter.
The closest MSU came all day was early in the 2nd quarter, when Garrett Shrader connected with Stephen Guidry for a 32-yard touchdown to close the gap to 14-7.
By the time the 4th quarter began, Texas A&M extended its lead to 42-17. The Bulldogs (3-5, 1-4 SEC) added 2 touchdowns late against the A&M backups to make the score look much better than it was from a Bulldog perspective.
Quarterback Kellen Mond was spectacular for the Aggies, finishing 17-of-23 for 234 yards through the air and 9 carries for 76 yards on the ground. Mond averaged 8.4 yards a carry and accounted for 5 touchdowns.
Mississippi State had no answer.
Any spirited press conferences or plans for the future are falling on deaf ears for Bulldogs fans. What started as an exciting season has turned into one where MSU has woefully underachieved and is fighting for bowl eligibility with only 4 games remaining.
The past few weeks, MSU could have solidified its postseason against Tennessee of Texas A&M. Instead, the Bulldogs (assuming a loss to Alabama) will have to sweep Ole Miss and Arkansas to get back to a bowl game of any sort. Currently in a 4-game losing streak, MSU’s longest since a 7-game skid in 2005 under head coach Sylvester Croom, Joe Moorhead needs to somehow salvage the season as best as he can.
It starts with breaking the streak and MSU has a good chance against Arkansas next week in Fayetteville. Razorbacks head coach Chad Morris is looking for his first SEC win as head coach in 2 seasons on the job.
We could dissect the numbers and make a case for parity between MSU and A&M, but the underlying fact is A&M entered the 4th quarter with a 42-17 lead and the game in its hands.
I’ll spare the unimportant statistics.
A big highlight, by the end of the game, MSU running back Kylin Hill gained 150 rushing yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. It was evident the offensive staff wanted to get the junior the ball and he was back to his normal form. Unfortunately, he was one of the few. While the Bulldogs had 22 first downs, only 2 fewer than A&M, MSU lost 2 fumbles and had a pass intercepted, which does nothing to help when you’re on the road in the SEC.
Quarterback Garrett Shrader did well when he wasn’t pressured and sacked. The A&M defense put pressure on Shrader; MSU missed offensive linemen Greg Eiland and Stewart Reese, who were out. Shrader finished with 194 passing yards and 3 touchdowns.
If MSU didn’t turn the ball over so frequently, it perhaps could have made this game competitive down the stretch.
The Bulldogs, already without cornerback Maurice Smitherman, who is lost for the season, missed Cameron Dantzler as well. With LB Willie Gay and DT Lee Autry suspended, the day already started on a sour note. It made for an easy day for Mond and he exploited the MSU secondary all day.
A few Bulldogs played well. They both struggled in coverage but Brian Cole and Jaquarius Landrews led the team in tackles with 9 and 8, respectively. Across the defensive front, Chauncey Rivers could have played his best game as a Bulldog. He had only 5 tackles but Rivers was in the Aggies backfield all day and pressured Mond often.
Against Texas A&M it was simply about effort and execution. Both were lacking on Saturday. Moorhead has to make sure he doesn’t lose this team completely.
Special Teams: B
It was the best game of the season for both punter Tucker Day and placekicker Jace Christmann as a group. Day averaged 44.7 yards on 3 punts with a long of 50 yards. Christmann connected on his only field goal attempt from 33 yards.
“I thought we competed. The effort was there, the kids played hard. But you’re going to look back and it’s a game of precision. A game that a freshman quarterback, patchwork line, and revamped secondary wasn’t able to play precisely.” — Joe Moorhead
“We had a plan, we were going to throw (in) the game a lot and it would eventually get the running game going. They had some blitz packages we hadn’t seen. And some free safety and strong safety blitzes I wasn’t ready for, my eyes were in the wrong place.” — Garrett Shrader
“Everybody (is) tired of losing,” Jaquarius Landrews