ATHENS, Ga. | Mississippi State had one of its worst offensive showings under Dan Mullen, and some self-inflicted wounds proved costly in a 24-10 loss to Georgia on Saturday at Sanford Stadium.
MSU (2-3, 0-3 SEC), which has lost its first three SEC games for the first time since 2006, gained 213 total yards. Just 56 of that came on the ground. State also committed three turnovers and eight penalties.
Of course, Georgia committed three turnovers and eight penalties as well. But that offense found some early success in the running game, and when he wasn’t being picked off (three times), QB Aaron Murray was making precise throws. He finished 13 of 25 for 160 yards and two TDs, both of which came in the first quarter as Georgia (3-2, 2-1) took a 14-3 lead.
State had a chance to cut into that, but Chris Relf‘s pass to Chris Smith went through the receiver’s hands and into the arms of UGA’s Sanders Commings at the 3-yard line. He returned it to the 19, and then Georgia drove 81 yards, with a 7-yard Carlton Thomas touchdown run giving the home Bulldogs a 21-3 lead that they took into halftime.
“A huge momentum point,” MSU head coach Dan Mullen said. “Chris throws a great pass, makes a great read, good fake, guy’s open – we don’t make the catch, turn the ball over. It’s those little things that have to get cleaned up, because you can’t execute sometimes. You can’t have 10 guys execute; you need 11 on every snap to get the job done.”
MSU’s defense buckled down in the second half. Freshman tailback Isaiah Crowell gained 90 of his 104 rushing yards in the first two quarters, and Georgia managed only 78 yards of offense in the second half (it had 315 for the game).
Georgia was aided by a short field, including a 22-yard TD drive that came after an 11-yard punt by Baker Swedenburg. UGA’s average starting field position on its scoring drives was MSU’s 38-yard line.
MSU just couldn’t find anything offensively. Redshirt freshman Dylan Favre got a handful of snaps as Relf rested briefly in the second half but couldn’t provide a spark. Mullen confirmed that normal backup Tyler Russell was kept out because of a knee injury.
Much of MSU’s woes can be put on the offensive line, which is a mess right now because of injuries.
“When it comes down to offensive line play, the issue is you need five guys working together. Four goods and one bad results in a negative play on the offensive line,” said Mullen.
Tailback Vick Ballard ws held to 23 yards on eight carries, while Relf had 31 on 15 totes. Relf was 19 of 31 for 157 yards and two interceptions – he started the game 8 of 9. He was sacked four times.
Darius Slay, getting a lot of snaps at cornerback as Corey Broomfield (sprained thumb) was limited, had a 72-yard pick-six in the fourth quarter. Too late by then, but Mullen was glad to see the juco transfer step up big.
“I told our coaches, we can’t be nervous playing young guys. We’ve got to get them out there on the field and see if guys can make plays.”
Look for more coverage in Sunday’s Journal.