Mississippi State football: Grading the Bulldogs after they throttle Hogs
Mississippi State entered the must-win SEC game against the Arkansas Razorbacks with the goal of keeping its bowl hopes alive and leave Fayetteville with its 4th win of the season over the Hogs, who were winless in the conference.
Not only did the Bulldogs win, they did so in very impressive fashion, behind the running of Kylin Hill. It was a record day on the ground for the Bulldogs, who amassed 234 yards against a lifeless Razorbacks defense. The performance was the 5th best on the ground in MSU history. Mississippi State (4-5, 2-4 SEC) defeated the Hogs 54-24 and the game was never close. Coach Joe Moorhead is two wins from the postseason, which would be the 10th consecutive season with a bowl bid for MSU.
Kylin Hill is a machine.
The junior running back finished with 234 yards on 21 carries and sliced the Razorbacks defense all day. Coming into the game, many of the pundits were all of the same opinion: Give Hill the ball. Moorhead felt this would be a nice recipe for success as well and made Hill the focus of the offense. The current leading rusher in the SEC, Hill has gained 1,027 yards and 9 touchdowns on 176 carries.
This could be a record-breaking season for Hill. With games remaining against Alabama, Abilene Christian and Mississippi, Hill needs 365 yards in MSU’s final three games to beat Anthony Dixon’s single-season school mark of 1,391 rushing yards, set in 2009.
The season started with many people scratching their heads when Hill wasn’t getting the ball, but that has changed over the last two weeks. I expect the trend to continue the next few weeks.
At quarterback, Tommy Stevens is back, spelling injured Garrett Shrader.
Just when you think the Stevens experiment is over, Moorhead goes back to the well. Stevens played well against Arkansas and managed the game just as his was asked to. He had 172 passing yards and 74 yards on the ground. Stevens doesn’t need to win the game, he just doesn’t need to lose it.
By Moorhead putting him in situations to win, like handing the ball to Kylin Hill, Stevens is a serviceable signalcaller.
When you run for as many yards as the Bulldogs did, though, throwing the ball is secondary. That said, Deddrick Thomas played well, grabbing 2 catches with a long of 42 yards. Osirus Mitchell caught the only passing touchdown of the day from 33 yards.
At the end of the day, the Bulldogs rushed for 460 yards on 57 carries, or 8.1 yards per carry.
MSU gave up just 10 points when it mattered as the Bulldogs led the Hogs 45-10 midway through the 3rd quarter. It was another solid day for the Bob Shoop led troops, who didn’t allow a passing touchdown until near the end of the 3rd quarter when the game was essentially over.
Recovering from the losses of both Cameron Dantzler and Maurice Smitherman a week ago, this secondary has improved drastically. Marcus Murphy and Martin Emerson played the best games of their MSU careers, with Murphy intercepting Arkansas quarterback Ben Hicks and forcing a fumble.
Murphy and linebacker Erroll Thompson led the team with 8 tackles each. Linebacker Willie Gay was a welcomed return for the defense and finished with 5 tackles along with Dantzler, who returned from the injury list.
Arkansas was limited to 101 yards through the air, as starter Ben Hicks finished 4 of 13 for 44 yards. Reserve quarterback J.S. Jones threw for a touchdown and had 25 yards passing.
All-conference caliber running back Rakeem Boyd finished with 114 rushing yards for Arkansas but 52 came on one play early in the game. The MSU defense did a splendid job limiting him on Saturday.
Special Teams: A
It was another big day for punter Tucker Day, who finished with an average of 43.0 yards per kick. Placekicker Jace Christmann had one of his best games this season, connecting on both field goal attempts of 26 and 46 yards.
“It’s a role I’ve experienced before (coming off the bench), I was just hopeful I had the opportunity to show what I could do. The offensive line really paved the way today,” Tommy Stevens said.
“Very excited to get the win on the road, happy we did things right off the field and have a great week of preparations,” Moorhead said.
“We have a bye week to make a decision on the quarterback but it is really nice to have two,” Moorhead said.