STARKVILLE — Chris Relf threw two interceptions. Tyler Russell threw three more.
Combined, those five turnovers doomed Mississippi State during its 29-7 loss to 15th-ranked LSU on Saturday.
But Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen said simply blaming the quarterbacks for those turnovers wouldn’t be accurate, instead pointing to blocking breakdowns along the offensive line that were huge factors in those bad plays.
“For an experienced group, they’re just not communicating very well,” Mullen said. “Everybody’s taking care of themselves instead of taking care of the line.”
Mississippi State (1-2, 0-2 Southeastern Conference) is trying to get those problems corrected before Georgia (1-2, 0-2 SEC) comes to town this weekend. Both teams have lost two games in a row to ranked opponents, meaning there should be plenty of desperation at Davis-Wade Stadium.
Georgia hasn’t lost three games in a row since 1990, and hasn’t started 0-3 in the SEC since 1993.
Mississippi State is still looking for a big SEC win to jump start its quest for bowl eligibility for the first time since 2007.
“We’re not far off,” Mullen said. “But we just have no consistency.”
And that’s exactly why fixing the offense has proven difficult. Every time one position improves, another falters. During Monday’s press conference, Mullen itemized each interception from the LSU game, listing the root cause.
One was a bad decision by Relf.
One was an incredible play by LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson.
One was when an offensive lineman “flat missed” a block.
One was when a running back didn’t hear a protection call.
One was caused by a running back going the wrong way, leaving Russell wide open for a big hit.
“There’s plenty of blame to go around.” Mullen said.
The problems along Mississippi State’s offensive line are somewhat surprising considering the Bulldogs returned four starters from last season. Left tackle Derek Sherrod, a 6-foot-6, 305-pound senior, said there was no excuse for the second half of the LSU game, when Tigers were knifing through the offensive line and hitting MSU’s quarterbacks on almost every play.
Relf, who completed 5 of 8 passes for 35 yards, had to leave the game after being knocked woozy in the third quarter. Russell completed 5 of 10 passes for 81 yards, but was throwing with LSU players in his face all night.
“It wasn’t anything we weren’t prepared for,” Sherrod said. “But it’s just something where everyone on the line has to work together.”
The LSU game did produce at least a few minutes of encouraging game tape. It came from early in the third quarter, when Mississippi State put together an impressive 13-play, 81-yard drive that ended in the team’s only touchdown of the evening.
Mullen said the offensive line graded perfectly on nine of those 13 plays.
“It’s a shock what happens when all five of the linemen do the right thing,” Mullen said.
Now Mississippi State’s offensive line will prepare for a Georgia defense that’s still adjusting to a 3-4 scheme implemented by new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham.
Georgia’s defense gave up 380 passing yards in Saturday’s 31-24 loss to Arkansas.
Despite those issues, Mullen said he expects nothing but Georgia’s best.
“We’re going to have our hands full,” Mullen said. “This is a talented Georgia team coming in here … You have to be able to win your home games in the Southeastern Conference.”
David Brandt/The Assocated Press