Mississippi State football: Grading the Bulldogs after Auburn blowout
The first play from scrimmage Saturday served as an indication of what was to come.
It was a penalty for delay of game.
Auburn (5-0, 2-0 SEC) scored on its first 3 drives with ease and led the Bulldogs (3-2, 1-1 SEC) 21-0 with almost 9:00 left in the 1st quarter. The final score, 56-23, was just more of the same.
The game was essentially over before the stadium filled up.
What we found out Saturday is that Auburn is a machine and Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead simply didn’t have his MSU team ready to play.
Compound the two and it was a recipe for disaster.
These grades reflect that …
It appears the Tommy Stevens experiment is over. Well, it should be. The graduate transfer from Penn State started the game with an injured shoulder and left with an injured right lower leg injury in the 1st half.
It just hasn’t worked.
With Auburn starting with 2 long drives and 1 short drive set up by a special teams miscue, MSU’s offense never really got into rhythm.
The Bulldogs finally put together a nice drive behind quarterback Garrett Shrader. The freshman put together a 12-play, 75-yard drive that was capped off by a Stephen Guidry touchdown catch from 9 yards out to put MSU on the board.
Like many games this season, the kicking game was a circus, as Jace Christmann missed the PAT, leaving MSU in a 21-6 hole.
Shrader didn’t have his best day throwing the football, but you must consider the competition. The Auburn defense is statistically one of the best in the country, holding Shrader to only 209 passing yards on 12-of-23 throws. He did toss 2 touchdowns, but those were too little, too late.
The offensive line struggled all night, giving up 2 sacks and not creating any lanes for running back Kylin Hill to run. The talented junior only mustered 45 yards on 17 carries. Shrader led all rushers with 89 yards on 16 carries.
To be honest, this was not going to be a good night running the football on 2 fronts.
1. By getting down 21-0 so early, the offensive game plan had to be abandoned.
2. Auburn is No. 20 in the country in stopping the run, only allowing 95.2 yards per game.
A nice sign is the implementation of the tight end in the passing game. Senior Farrod Green led all receivers with 3 catches for 69 yards, a bright spot for the Bulldogs going forward.
Auburn quarterback Bo Nix caused a lot of problems for the secondary. The problem was compounded by the fact Nix made it difficult on the linebackers as well, as he was the Tigers’ leading rusher.
He’s also a freshman.
Nix finished with sparkling numbers, throwing for 335 yards and was 16-of-21 with 2 passing touchdowns.
He shredded the secondary all night, connecting with Seth Williams 8 times for 161 yards and 2 scores. MSU didn’t have an answer for either Tiger.
While the Tigers didn’t have a runner eclipse the 100-yard mark, they compiled 237 yards.
It didn’t help the best MSU defender was ejected for a targeting call in the 1st half, leaving a void at the linebacker position. Leo Lewis stepped up to have a nice game, amid the problems, leading the team with 8 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 forced fumble and 2 fumble recoveries. This might have been Lewis’ best game as a Bulldog.
As it stood, Nix had an eternity to throw the football, as MSU could not get any pressure on him. Kobe Jones and Chauncey Rivers were dominated by Auburn’s offensive line.
Special teams: D
The slide began when MSU transfer JaVonta Payton fumbled the kickoff return on the Tigers’ 2nd kickoff of the game when they led led 14-0. Auburn scored 2 plays later.
While placekicker Jace Christmann made a 27-yard field goal, he missed a PAT following MSU’s first score. The Bulldogs struggled on punt coverage as the Tigers averaged 11.3 yards per return.
Mississippi State will enjoy a bye week upcoming before traveling to face Tennessee in Knoxville. Tennessee hosts No. 3 Georgia this week. Barring a huge upset, the Vols will be 1-4 and 0-2 in the SEC when MSU visits in Week 7.
Suffice to say, both teams will be in need of a win.
“I thought some of our warts got exposed today – our deficiencies and weaknesses – and they took advantage of them. The first and biggest thumb goes back to me,” MSU coach Joe Moorhead.
“I feel like those guys came out pretty confident with a great game plan and they executed it better than us,” MSU DE Kobe Jones said.