Mississippi State football survives Vanderbilt

Mississippi State football

Mississippi State football finally got back into the win column with a 24-17 win over the visiting Vanderbilt Commodores. The win was a big one for Mississippi State as it ends a four-game losing streak and marks head coach Mike Leach’s first win in Davis Wade Stadium. The Bulldogs wore special uniforms honoring the Flying M jerseys worn in the 60s and 70s for homecoming.

While Mississippi State football may not be at the bottom of the SEC, this game shows it is not far off from it. Even though the Bulldogs are battling numerous injuries and key departures, they were still heavily favored, and the game should not have been this close.

Offense still has a lot to prove

The offense started strong, but it seemed to run out of gas after halftime. Mississippi State punted the ball seven straight times in the second half and never had a play of over 20 yards the entire game.

“They really didn’t do anything. They just saw us lined up and pressured us some,” Leach said of the Vanderbilt defense postgame. “They basically watched us take turns screwing up, playing timid and sitting on the sidelines with blank, wide-eyed faces and I’m getting sick and tired of that.”

True freshman Will Rogers made his first career start due to an injury K.J. Costello suffered last week against Alabama. Rogers was better than anything we’ve seen lately and finished with a solid stat line of 35 completions on 46 attempts for 226 yards and one touchdown. His 35 completions were the most ever by a Mississippi State freshman in a single game.

The running game continues to be the worst in FBS. True freshman Jo’Quavious Marks led the team in rushing with six carries for 10 yards. Mississippi State finished the game with -22 yards rushing after factoring in sacks, which count against rushing yards in college football. The lone bright spot for the rushing game was that both Marks and Dillon Johnson were able to punch the football into the end zone.

Another bright spot for the offense was the red zone offense. The Bulldogs came into the game with an FBS worst three touchdowns on 12 red zone trips but scored all three touchdowns from inside the Vanderbilt 10-yard line.

The offensive line woes continued for Mississippi State. With both starting tackles out, the offensive line allowed a Vanderbilt defense, which came into the game with a conference worst five sacks, to get constant pressure on three-man rushes and accumulate three sacks.

Defense saved the day

If it wasn’t for five turnovers caused by the Mississippi State defense, the Bulldogs would have almost assuredly lost to a winless conference opponent. Fourteen of Mississippi State’s 24 points came off of turnovers.

In the freshman vs. freshman quarterback battle, Rogers was efficient while Ken Seals kept gifting the ball to the wrong team. After throwing an interception to safety Collin Duncan on his first pass attempt of the game, Seals sealed the Commodores fate after a Marquiss Spencer interception late in the fourth quarter. He finished the game with 336 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. He also fumbled the ball once.

Big plays were the name of the game for Vandy, but the Bulldogs’ defense really held up when it mattered. Even though Vanderbilt had five plays of over 20 yards, Mississippi State forced a number of fourth-down tries to which the Bulldogs came out on top.

Vanderbilt running back Keyon Henry-Brooks was the player of the game going for over 200 total yards and a touchdown in his first game as the feature back. Brooks was a big-play machine with one play of 30 yards through the air while adding a 27-yard run on the ground.

The defensive player on the game for the Bulldogs was definitely linebacker Tyrus Wheat. Wheat made plays all over the field with six tackles, two forced fumbles and the Bulldogs’ lone sack.

The Bulldogs defensive line was the biggest surprise at the start of the season, leading the conference in sacks for the first few weeks, but have since fallen off really hard. Mississippi State has only gotten to the quarterback twice in the past three games.

Leach calls out “impatient” fans

Leach surprisingly had quite a lot to say about Mississippi State football fans after the game. State fans have been very vocal on social media regarding the lackluster start to the Leach era with many even calling for him to already be fired. Leach seemed to defend the coaching staff while also calling for fans to be more patient with the newly installed offense.

“Well, I mean every job that I’ve ever had, all I promised was to give my very best and they’ve certainly gotten that, but I get a kick out of fans feel like they’re upset about something,” Leach said. “They ought to try it from the players’ and coaches’ standpoint. I talked about it on the radio show. It’s like breakfast: the chicken is involved but the pig is committed. Coaches and players, we’re like the pigs.

“But I certainly appreciate our fan support. There were cowbells. I thought we had a great crowd. I thought they did a great job as far as lifting our team at key times, inspiring us on all sides of the ball, because there were key contributions on all three sides of the ball and that was key.

Deceptive Speed