It had been a rough couple of weeks for the Mississippi State Bulldogs. The Bulldogs started with 2 non-conference wins in the 2023 college season. The Bulldogs then suffered losses to No. 14 LSU, at South Carolina and to No. 12 Alabama.

Mississippi State needed to break the losing streak and add some positivity to give the team a mental boost for the rest of the season. That boost came on Saturday as the Bulldogs took down the Western Michigan Broncos at home 41-28. While the Bulldogs weren’t perfect, they took care of business on homecoming as they are back at .500.

Player of the Week: QB Will Rogers

One of the biggest reasons for the Bulldogs’ 3 consecutive losses is the tough play from senior quarterback Will Rogers. In each of the three SEC losses, Rogers finished with a QBR under 60. He had a QBR of 18.6 in the loss to Alabama and a 5.4 QBR in the loss to LSU.

In Week 6, Rogers was more composed and efficient under center. Against Western Michigan, Rogers completed 16-of-22 for 189 yards, 3 touchdowns, a quarterback rating of 189 and a QBR of 78. 2 of Rogers’ 3 touchdowns have come in the first half.

It is the first time he has accounted for a QBR above 55.7 since Week 2 in the 31-24 overtime win over Arizona.

Freshman of the Week: Edge Donterry Russell

In a starting lineup full of older established players, it is refreshing to see a young player grow and develop. Redshirt freshman edge rusher Donterry Russell is becoming a key valuable player on the Bulldogs’ defense. Last week, Russell had his breakout game by accounting for 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 in the 40-17 home loss to No. 12 Alabama.

On Saturday, Russell was the fourth-leading tackler for the Bulldogs by accumulating 7 total tackles. His 5 solo tackles were the third-most on the team. He was efficient in a game where other defenders showed their weaknesses.

Biggest surprise: The devotion to spread the ball around the field

The Bulldogs’ offense has faced heavy scrutiny in their last three games. In week 6, Rogers had one of his performances of the season. He continues to spread the ball throughout the field to several different pass-catchers.

The top receiver was Freddie Roberson, who caught 5 receptions for 68 yards and a touchdown. His next leading pass-catcher was to Lideatrick Griffin, who caught 4 receptions for 65 yards.

Griffin caught 5 receptions for 21 yards in the loss to Alabama. This was one game after he dominated the stats sheet with 7 receptions for 256 yards and a touchdown. Griffin has a chance to be a star in the SEC, so it is surprising that the Bulldogs do not try to give him more opportunities.

Biggest Concern: Defense allowing 297 passing yards from Western Michigan

The Bulldogs’ defense, specifically, the secondary has had some tough performances. In the loss to LSU, the Bulldogs allowed 367 yards. One game later against South Carolina, Mississippi State allowed 288 passing while also allowing Rattler to complete 18-of-20 of his passes.

In Week 6, Mississippi State allowed Western Michigan quarterback Hayden Wolff to complete 27-of-35 of his passes for 262 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception and a QBR of 85. Wolff threw passing touchdowns in the second, third and fourth quarters.

Mississippi State is now ranked 115th (11th in the SEC) in passing yards allowed per game (248.5).

Developing Trend: State has second-worst point differential in SEC play

As previously mentioned, the Bulldogs have faced a brutal SEC slate of games already. They have losses at home to ranked teams like LSU and Alabama and a tough home road to South Carolina.

In those 3 SEC games, Mississippi State has a point differential of -57. The Bulldogs have the second-worst point differential in SEC play, just ahead of Vanderbilt at -58. It is not going to get easier for either of these teams moving into the second half of the season.

Key Stat: 3-of-6

Mississippi State didn’t have the best defensive performance against Western Michigan. One key reason for the Broncos finding some success on offense was that they were 3-of-6 on fourth-down conversions.

Western Michigan had moments where they mentally deflated Mississippi State on defense. The Broncos accumulated 413 total yards, which was only 27 total yards less than what the Bulldogs’ offense accounted for.

First Impression of Week 7

The Mississippi State Bulldogs (3-3) have shed their 3-game losing streak. They go into Week 7 on a bye week earning some much-needed rest as the team will try to recover from injuries and get their minds right for a tough second half of the season.

Three of the next 4 games for the Bulldogs will be on the road. Mississippi State will face at Arkansas (2-4; 0-3 in SEC play), at Auburn (3-2; 0-2), home against No. 24 Kentucky (5-1; 2-1) and at Texas A&M (4-2; 2-1).

The Bulldogs will have their final non-conference team at home against Southern Miss (1-5) before finishing the 2023 regular season at home against No. 13 Ole Miss (5-1: 2-1).

If the Bulldogs are going to survive the brutal conference slate and go to a postseason bowl for the 14th consecutive season, the pass defense must be better. The easiest remaining games on their schedule are against Arkansas, which suffered a 27-20 loss to Ole Miss in Week 6, Auburn and Southern Miss.