First Look: MSU Takes the Week Off … Sorta

Mississippi State, 4-0 and ranked 21st in the country, is off this week. Well, it has no game on Saturday, anyway. That doesn’t mean some work won’t get done.

In fact, senior cornerback Johnthan Banks said after Saturday’s 30-10 win over South Alabama that he doesn’t plan on slowing down this week.

“You never want to take a day off. I don’t,” he said. “I might not be doing as much as a freshman is doing, but I’m going to go out there and work every day, because I want to be great. I can’t be great sitting on the sidelines.”

There’s no reason for MSU’s coaches to worry about Banks. There are concerns elsewhere, however, starting with the offense. The Bulldogs punted on their first four possessions Saturday, and the week before they stalled in the second half as Troy mounted a comeback. Quarterback Tyler Russell wasn’t sharp against South Alabama, and his numbers the past two weeks aren’t eye-popping: 24 of 53 (45.3 percent) for 415 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. All those drops against Troy certainly hurt his totals, but he was definitely off against USA.

The defensive line, while it’s been solid, hasn’t been quite as dominant as expected, at least not statistically speaking. But the defense as a whole sure looked a lot better against South Alabama than it did against Troy.

“There’s a lot of improving we have to do on both sides of the ball,” head coach Dan Mullen said. “We’ll get a lot of that fixed in the bye week this week.”

On the whole, MSU is in a very good place, and it’s where it had expected to be. It’s 4-0 for the first time since 1999 and is in position to accomplish that 7-0 start we’ve talked about. Two more wins make State bowl-eligible for the third consecutive season. Beating Kentucky next week will make the Bulldogs 2-0 in the SEC, matching last year’s league win total.

“The nice part is when you go to make adjustments and you’re 4-0,” said Mullen, “it’s an easier feeling for the guys.”

• Here’s my USA-MSU rewind from today’s Journal.

• We should find out kickoff time and TV info for the Kentucky game later today. A reminder: No press conference today. We’ll catch up with people on Tuesday and Wednesday.

I am the online content coordinator for I also co-host The Memo and Prep Rally podcasts and host the Newsbreak program. Previously at the Journal, I covered Mississippi State athletics (2008-13), high schools (2004-08), and was on the copy desk (2002-04).

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  • MabenMaroon

    I got a sneaky feeling that the coaching staff is only showng the most basic stuff on both sides of the ball. Haven’t seen a lot of counter type running plays, no sweeps, very little read option and very little of the crossing or pick type receiving routes.
    On defense, have not seen much in the way of 7 man fronts, not very much in the blitzing department and very little of the line stunts. The basic stuff is fairly easy for an opponent to prepare for and adjust to during the game and thusly opponents like Troy and USA can figure out what to do to gain yards when on offense and can really bow up and crash on defense and makes us look less than stellar. I strongly believe that Coach Mullen and the rest of staff will keep it that way for as long as possible and as deep into the season as possible, that way our strong suits and most effective plays aren’t on film when the it comes time to play the heavy weights on our schedule. We will see more open and intricate offense and tighter more mixes and looks on defense when the timing is right for it and not until then. There has been no need to show our hand up until this point in the season and have been able to come out on top by just outmanning the opponents with very basic stuff and by buckling down when the game is on the line. Should continue to see more of the same for at least one more game, might show a little against Tenn depending on the flow of the game and won’t really see a whole lot until we play Bama and the rest of the big boys in the SEC west.

  • I agree with
    MabenMaroon. I tend to believe we’re hiding what this team can actually do. There’s just too much talent on both sides of the ball to have played the way we have so far.

    We know that State has been known to play down to opponents in the past, but I believe Dan is using this towards our advantage. As our other friends in the SEC watch how we’ve played they have to think that we’re no better than we’ve been in the past and we haven’t shown anything play wise to prove any different. I’m not saying that there doesn’t need to be improvements in certain areas, and that Tyler didn’t have an ‘off’ night Saturday – but I’m going to believe that Dan is a genius and is using our past to help hide our future.

    We’re freakin’ 4-0 and I am going to say right now…I may be drunk… but we’ll upset Bama by a field goal kicked by Bell! Crazier things have happened. Ok, I need to stop right there…sorry. GO DAWGS!!!

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