Following each loss, Logan Lowery of the Daily Journal will give his opinion and grade out each position group for Mississippi State.
Overview: For the second straight week, Mississippi State played well enough to beat most teams. But since the Bulldogs played No. 9 Texas and No. 1 Alabama they went 0-2 in those contests. It was the sixth loss to a team currently ranked in the top 18 this year.
MSU had one of the better showings of any opponent for Alabama all season. The Bulldogs defense played exceptionally well but depth due to injuries began to show in the second half and the Crimson Tide were able to take advantage. I would have loved to have watched a healthy State team in that game. I’m not sure if they would have had enough to upset Alabama but boy that sure would have been a good game to watch/ cover.
Quarterbacks: C- With Dak Prescott not dressed out due to a shoulder injury it was Tyler Russell‘s show Saturday night. I felt that Russell was the better match-up option to use against the Tide but there is no question Mississippi State could have used Prescott. Russell did decent during the game but his two fumbles could have been costly but weren’t. I cannot fault Damian Williams at all at the end of the game because he should not have been in that situation. That was the fault of Dylan Favre and Nick Schuessler.
Running backs: D+ 19 carries for 45 yards. That was the production from the Bulldog running backs all evening. With Prescott being out, it was up to the backfield to make up for that lost production on the ground and that simply did not happen. LaDarius Perkins had 25 yards on 10 attempts, Josh Robinson carried six times for for 17 yards and Ashton Shumpert had three tries for three yards. Coming into the year MSU had five backs to use but Nick Griffin has not had a carry since Oct. 24 and Derrick Milton since Sept. 21 against Troy.
Wide receivers: F Jameon Lewis was the only wideout with multiple catches and he only had four grabs for 36 yards. The entire unit combined for six catches for 48 yards. That type of effort is horrid and definitely will not get the job done against the nation’s No. 1 team. Lewis and De’Runnya Wilson were the only two receivers to have positive yardage against Alabama.
Tight ends: B+ Malcolm Johnson was playing with a purpose Saturday night against his hometown team. Johnson made several big snags and finished with six catches for 84 yards which surpassed the entire wide receiver unit. Russell has always utilized the tight ends in the passing game and the Alabama game was no different.
Offensive line: B+ The offensive line fared well against the Crimson Tide’s talented defensive front. Russell had time in the pocket most of the evening and the line gave up just two sacks. If you had money on right tackle Charles Siddoway scoring a touchdown against Alabama then I’d guess you’re sitting on a really fat wallet as you read this.
Defensive line: B+ MSU’s defensive line was the aggressor against Alabama and got after AJ McCarron. While the Bulldogs only had one sack, it was an impressive one as true freshman Chris Jones broke through a double team and still brought down the quarterback. Jones has definitely lived up to the hype. Kaleb Eulls played one of his better games at defensive tackle and the defensive line finished with 2.5 tackles for loss.
Linebackers: B+ I was very impressed with the linebackers as a whole even without Deontae Skinner for the second straight game. Matthew Wells and Beniquez Brown combined for 13 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and recovered a fumble. The unit finished with 17 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries and a pass breakup.
Defensive backs: C+ Taveze Calhoun picked off McCarron twice after he had only thrown three all season. Kendrick Market led the team with 10 tackles, 0.5 for loss and forced a fumble. Nickoe Whitley saved a long touchdown run by chasing down T.J. Yeldon and batted away another score in the end zone. State’s secondary has been vulnerable all year due to inexperience and multiple injuries but the future appears to be bright for this unit.
Special teams: F It was another nightmare outing for the Bulldog special teams units. Evan Sobiesk missed a chip-shot field goal in the second quarter that would have tied the game 3-3. Punting was inconsistent in Baker Swedenburg‘s return. Lewis’ awful season returning punts continued to plague the Bulldogs. He muffed a punt that resulted in a 15-yard loss and his choice not to fair catch two others left the offense pinned inside the 8-yard line.
Coaching: C+ Holding Alabama to their lowest point total all year shows the defensive game plan was well done. The offense was limited with Prescott on the sidelines but had its moments. I still don’t understand going out of the shotgun in short yardage situations. Dan Mullen must make some type of changes on special teams. Mullen serving as special teams coach in addition to all of his responsibilities as head coach has proven to be too much.