Rapid reaction: South Alabama stuns Bulldogs in Starkville
Maybe Dan Mullen should have left when he had the chance. It may have been worth it after Saturday’s humiliation.
South Alabama has only been playing football since 2009 and was nearly a 30-point underdog Saturday in Starkville. The Jaguars didn’t need Vegas, they just needed an upright.
Westin Graves’ game-winning field goal clanked off the left yellow pole with 6 seconds to play and South Alabama beat Mississippi State, 21-20. Tight end Gerald Everett’s 4-yard touchdown catch with 57 seconds to go was the difference.
The Jaguars had scoring drives of 99 and 71 yards in the fourth quarter and held the Bulldogs to a field goal in the second half.
What it means: Not a whole heck of a lot in terms of positives for Mississippi State. That wasn’t Alabama or Ole Miss on the other sideline. It means the quarterback race is still open, and the secondary has some splainin’ to do. This tweet from former DB Johnthan Banks sums it up.
This is embarrassing
— Johnthan Banks (@JBanks_27) September 3, 2016
It didn’t leave fans all that happy. After many of the 57,075 left Davis Wade, there were boo birds after a sack and missed field goal, and the USA crowd was consistently louder than even the cowbells. The uprights blocked two of South Alabama kicker Gavin Patterson’s field goals. Without that, it’s a touchdown win for the Jags.
What I liked: That’s tricky. Junior quarterback Damian Williams didn’t draw the start. but after sophomore Nick Fitzgerald started the game with a pair of three-and-outs (in fairness, with a couple of dropped passes), Williams overthrew the pace with three straight scoring drives and a 17-0 halftime lead. The pace did slow in the second half, but even in perspective against non-SEC competition, Williams has the nod moving forward … for now. He finished 20-of-28 for 143 yards but started out 9-for-9. With the way the second half went, MSU was never able to get Fitzgerald back in. Williams did what should be enough to draw the SEC start next Saturday. That said, woof.
What I didn’t like: Dallas Davis picked Mississippi State’s pass defense apart. Josh Magee caught a touchdown pass in triple coverage to start the second half. Between the six arms of J.T. Gray, Brandon Bryant and Rashard Durr, it was the 15th completion of 18 attempts at the time for Davis. Davis needled one into Everett on a 4th-and-2 at midfield on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Davis threw for 285 yards and 2 touchdowns on 24-of-33 passing and nearly had two 100-yard receivers for the first time in school history – Everett five yards shy of joining Josh Magee’s 113.
Who’s the man: No one in maroon left feeling like the man. A.J. Jefferson. The senior lineman had 13.5 tackles for loss last season. He had four for loss against the Jaguars, sending them back 25 yards, plus two sacks to get to nearly half the five he had all of last season. After a partially blocked punt in the first half, it was Jefferson forcing a 12-yard loss with one of those sacks to force a punt.
Key play(s): Simple. Everett’s 4-yard touchdown catch from Davis with 57 seconds to go was in traffic and highlighted Davis’ abuse of the MSU secondary.
What’s next: South Carolina goes to Starkville in a matchup of two offenses that, excluding the Bulldogs’ first half, don’t have a whole lot to be thrilled about.