Mississippi State football: Hopes for strong finish, bowl game
It was a big win for Mississippi State and head coach Joe Moorhead last week when the Bulldogs (4-5, 2-4 SEC) destroyed the Arkansas Razorbacks 54-24 in Fayetteville. The Bulldogs ran for 460 yards en route to the victory. More important for the Bulldogs, they held the Hogs to 285 total yards to stop any bleeding from the previous week’s loss to Texas A&M.
The season has not gone as well as the Bulldogs would have liked, with losses to Kansas State and Tennessee.
Losses to Auburn, Texas A&M and LSU were never close.
The good news for MSU? It can close the season with wins over Abilene Christian and Ole Miss to finish the season 6-6 and enjoy a bowl game. Let’s not discuss when Alabama comes calling next Saturday.
For head coach Joe Moorhead, that would be a nice end to a season with a slew of ups and downs.
The quarterback circus in Starkville
To no surprise, Tommy Stevens led the Bulldogs to victory against the Hogs. The graduate transfer from Penn State hadn’t played a series of substance since the loss in Knoxville. We would later learn that freshman quarterback Garrett Shrader would suffer from “general sickness” and that was why he was held out of the game against the Hogs.
The QB shuffle will be one to watch the final 3 games of the season. Currently, Stevens is the better passer, connecting on 55 of 87 passes for 687 yards and 7 touchdowns. Stevens also owns a higher quarterback rating at 146.9.
Shrader is the better runner. He is second on the team with 504 yards and 3 touchdowns on 92 carries. Shrader has played in 7 games and started 3.
Kylin Hill has found another gear
Many that follow the Bulldogs football program have said the coaching staff needs to get the ball into the hands of its playmakers. Essentially, MSU needs to get the ball into the hands of its elusive running back Kylin Hill.
The Mississippi State brass heard the message loud and clear against the Hogs. Hill had an incredible game, rushing for 234 yards and 3 touchdowns. On the season, Hill has rushed for 1,027 yards and 9 TDs on 176 carries for an average of 5.8 yards per carry.
Against both Abilene Christian and Ole Miss, I expect the Bulldogs to rely heavily on Hill in the backfield. He’ll need 364 yards to break MSU’s single-season rushing record.
Moorhead has quieted critics for now
Following the head-scratching loss to the Volunteers in Knoxville, many Bulldogs fans were ready to mail it in on Moorhead. The former offensive coordinator at Penn State saw his team play better in its loss to Texas A&M and then MSU destroyed a hapless Arkansas team. It appears some order has been restored in the program. Should Moorhead lead the Bulldogs to a 2-1 record down the stretch, he can get MSU to a bowl game for the 10th straight season.
The Egg Bowl looms
For both Ole Miss and Mississippi State, the 2019 Egg Bowl will be full of storylines, none more interesting than the two head coaches.
For MSU, Moorhead will have the luxury of a strong running game. The Rebels have been slashed this season by good running teams, but have improved dramatically since last fall, as they are currently No. 35 in the country in rushing defense.
With the MSU fan base, winning the Egg Bowl always provides a sense of security. Moorhead needs just that. Beating Ole Miss would provide Moorhead with a bit of a cushion and, no doubt, endear him to the Bulldog faithful.
On the other sideline, I’m not sure Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke can survive a lopsided loss to MSU for 2 seasons in a row.