No repeat of last year
Starkville- When playing a team that you outmatch across the board you’re suppose to win the ballgame, and Mississippi State did just that, crushing Charleston Southern 49-0. With visions of last year’s opener, Mississippi State fans did not want to see a repeat of the South Alabama game. Those fears went out the window on the first drive that saw Nick Fitzgerald hit tight end Farrod Green for a 62-yard pass that was followed by a 2-yard touchdown run from Fitzgerald with only 58 clicks off the game clock, setting the pace for the type of game that was to come.
But the Bulldog offense would not be the story for the day. That would belong to their defense which allowed only two first downs and 33 total yards the entire day behind first year defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. Charleston Southern never crossed midfield Saturday and the Bulldog defense gave up only 0.7 yards per play, the fewest in Mississippi State history. To go along with the shutout performance the Bulldog defense also added two safeties to their resume.
A few weeks ago I made the prediction that the Mississippi State defense would be the most improved unit in the entire SEC, which isn’t really saying a lot based off of last year’s performance, but the way the Bulldog defense played Saturday that prediction looks to still be in play. It wasn’t so much the 33-yards allowed that should excite Bulldog fans as much as the attitude their defense showed throughout the game. Even with backups in and the game in route the Bulldog defense continued to swarm the ball. The speed and quickness of this defense is something that other SEC schools should take notice of.
Defense not the only bright spot
While the defense gave State fans reason to be optimistic moving forward the offense didn’t do too shabby themselves. Starting quarterback Nick Fitzgerald completed 16 of his 29 pass attempts for 239 yards and two touchdowns. While those numbers may not jump out at you, keep in mind, Fitzgerald would sit most of the second half. Losing Fred Ross, the most productive wide receiver in Mississippi State history, there were question marks about who would step up at the receiver position. The answer? A lot of guys. There were a total of 11 players who caught passes in Saturday’s game, led by Donald Grey who finished with 57 yards on three receptions.
Saturday’s game also showed fans the depth Mississippi State has at running back. With Aeris Williams, Nick Gibson, Alec Murphy, Dontavion Lee and Kylin Hill this could be the deepest set of running backs Mississippi State has ever had. Aeris Williams finished the day with 16 carries, 83 yards and a two-yard touchdown run. Alongside Kylin Hill fans saw the future of the Mississippi State Bulldogs with true freshman Keytaon Thompson at the quarterback position. Thompson finished 4 of 7 for 35 yards and a touchdown while true freshman Kylin Hill finished with 62 yards on nine carries. On his first carrer carry Hill ran for 19 yards, good for the longest run of the day.
Overall, the Bulldogs offense would gain 555 yards while scoring six touchdowns. The offense rushed for 281 yards and had 274 through the air, about as balanced as it gets. Still there are things Mississippi State will need to clean up. True freshman Tucker Day missed two field goals, something State fans were hoping to see an improvement on from last year. Also, watching the game it was easy to notice that nearly every snap to Fitzgerald was low. The low snaps never seemed to hurt them Saturday but will be something to watch as they start playing faster and more physical defenses. Mississippi State did what they were suppose to do and checked off many concerns that State fans may have had coming into this season. Overall, it was an impressive showing, even if it was against a bad football team.
Bailey Johnson is a Mississippi State fan and contributor to the Mississippi Social Sports Network.