Mississippi State football: Grading the Bulldogs' Week 2 win over Southern Miss
Heading into the second game of the season, one thing was certain: Mississippi State running back Kylin Hill would need to continue to run the football with a vengeance. Against Southern Miss on Saturday, the junior ran for 123 yards and averaged 8.8 yards a carry en route to a 38-15 win over the Golden Eagles.
Most importantly, Mississippi State is 2-0 on the season.
It wasn’t just the running of Hill. The MSU defense was stifling all day, holding USM quarterback Jack Abraham to just 234 yards through the air and forcing two interceptions.
The Bulldogs will host the Kansas State Wildcats next week before beginning SEC play the following week by welcoming Kentucky to campus.
Mississippi State lit up the Southern Miss defense for 38 points behind two quarterbacks. Starting quarterback Tommy Stevens was carving up the USM secondary before he went down with an injury in the second quarter. The official report from the university was an “upper body injury.” Before the injury, Stevens was 9-for-10 for 105 yards and two touchdowns. The good news for the Bulldogs was that freshman Garrett Shrader spelled the injured Stevens and played well. He finished 7-for-11 for 71 yards.
The injury bug bit again.
Midway through the second quarter, Hill went down as well. Fortunately for the Bulldogs, he was able to return in the second half and run for an additional 67 yards.
Anytime you throw up 38 points, it’s a good day. The other bright spot was that the quarterbacks threw to 10 different receivers, similar to last week, when Stevens threw to nine different receivers in the win over Lafayette.
Leadership on offense was a question mark coming into the season, with the graduation of quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. Fortunately for the Bulldogs, Stevens has taken the role and run with it. With the emergence of wide receivers Osirus Mitchell and Stephen Guidry, the Bulldogs could have one of the best offenses in the SEC by the end of the season.
Brian Cole showed up to play. Prior to the season, a number of people were bullish on Cole. I was one of them, and Saturday, he proved us correct. The East Mississippi Community College transfer defensive back was all over Scott Field, and he tied for the team lead with seven tackles and added one sack. He was in the face of a Golden Eagle all day. It was a welcome sight for head coach Joe Moorhead, who saw his secondary struggle last week, giving up 14 points late.
On a day when linebacker Erroll Thompson didn’t have his best game, it was a nice sight for defensive coordinator Bob Shoop to see Cole step up. Thompson finished with only four stops.
The youth movement continued in Starkville as freshman cornerback Martin Emerson recorded his first interception on the young season. Another player stepping up was Jaquarius Landrews. He was all over the field and finished with seven tackles, four of them solo.
Special teams: B+
MSU punter Tucker Day was incredible, averaging 49.8 yards per punt. What will really make Moorhead happy is that three of his four punts were downed inside the 20-yard line. Jace Christmann, who was suspended last week against Lafayette, returned to make 1 of 2 field goals and connect on all five of his extra points.
“I think we didn’t flinch in the face of adversity. There were a lot of opportunities here where a guy went down on offense, a guy went down on defense, or maybe a play didn’t go the way we wanted to, I think that’s indicative of this team.” — MSU head coach Joe Moorhead
“I feel like the first half we did pretty good shutting them down. The second half, we got a little too comfortable and gave up a couple of explosive plays. We are going to take the win, learn from our mistakes and make sure we come back the second half prepared like we were the first half.” — MSU safety Jaquarius Landrews
“At the end of the day when our back is up against the wall, we still got to stand our ground. We can’t let teams put points up on the board, just like coach said.” — MSU defensive back Brian Cole