Last Thursday Mississippi State showcased the progress it made under second-year head coach Dan Mullen. ESPN showed the world how far we had come. At the end of the game, it was us coming up short again. MSU football has not been able to get over the proverbial hump quite yet. Mullen has made impressive strides in a short amount of time. We are no longer an automatic conference win but are from being the perennial doormat. Despite two early turnovers, we still had a chance to win the game on a last second drive. Besides the dropped passes, there is a lot to be optimistic about.
In the first half, Cam Newton had his way with the MSU defense, outgaining the Bulldog offense by himself 146-125. Manny Diaz and staff made critical adjustments on the fly and held Newton to only 82 yards (22 of those receiving) in the second half. The MSU defense dictated when Newton would scramble. Even more importantly, after giving up 17 first-half points the defense shut out the potent Tiger offense. When it was time to make a stand late in the game, the defense came through on 3rd down and the ensuing blocked field goal.
FLAGS, FLAGS, FLAGS
MSU only committed two penalties for 25 yards: a personal foul that was a bit of acting on Auburn’s part and an illegal block. The two penalties are a far cry from the 5.6 penalties per game MSU averaged a season ago. To date, MSU is only averaging 2.5 penalties and 27.5 penalty yards per game. Dan Mullen wants his team to give “relentless effort,” and his team is giving that effort while playing disciplined football.
NOT FOLDING JUST YET
In years past, when MSU would go down by a double-digit deficit, we would fold when given the opportunity to make a comeback. We lacked the offensive firepower to score points in a short period of time, and the defense would eventually break from being on the field too long. With Mullen learning the spread offense from Urban Meyer, the Bulldog offense has the ability to march up the field gaining huge chunks of yards at a time. Coupled with Diaz’s high-risk, high-reward defense, MSU can put points on the board in a hurry.
There are still some minor details we need to work on to become more consistent. We have been here before: where the MSU fan base thinks we are ready to make the leap into the next tier of SEC schools. When we get there, we usually take two steps in the wrong direction. If not this season, next season will definitely be the year MSU causes major hell for the other teams in the conference. That is the beauty of playing in the best conference in the country: every week is a chance to score a major upset and get the momentum that can carry you through the rest of the season.