Mississippi State faces Southern Miss on Saturday in Starkville. Here are your three keys to a Mississippi State win over Southern Miss.
By Matt Zemek
The season opener for Mississippi State could have gone better, but it also could have been a lot worse. The general consensus was that with all the losses on the defensive side of the ball – three players leaving for the NFL and getting picked in the top 27 of the 2019 NFL Draft – the offense needed to step forward this season. Joe Moorhead had the chance to work with a Penn State transfer, Tommy Stevens, after being Penn State’s offensive coordinator. The hope was that Moorhead and Stevens would mesh in a way Moorhead was never able to establish with Nick Fitzgerald last season.
In Week 1, the early returns were good. Stevens completed 67 percent of his passes and helped MSU score 38 points in a win over Louisiana-Lafayette. Moorhead commented after the game that his offense did what it wanted to do and established run-pass balance.
The opponent was a Sun Belt opponent, but this was still a good start. Now the Bulldogs have to build on this in Week 2 against Southern Mississippi.
Key 1 – Self-Reliance
One key concern for Mississippi State is that its 38-point total – while certainly not terrible – coexisted with five turnovers from Louisiana-Lafayette. What happens when Mississippi State doesn’t get five turnovers to work with? What happens when an opposing offense doesn’t deliver several gifts to the Bulldogs? What happens when MSU has terrible field position and fewer possessions? The Bulldogs need to realize that their Week 1 game involved a lot of help from the opposition. No one should look at the final numbers and think this is the standard MSU should set and try to match for the rest of the season. This is a baseline performance which needs to be improved upon each step of the way. The Bulldogs need to raise their ceiling and constantly push themselves to be better… so that when opponents don’t help them out, they can still post huge numbers on offense.
Key 2 – Restarting
Three starters were suspended against Louisiana-Lafayette. Defensive tackle Lee Autry, linebacker Willie Gay Jr., and kicker Jace Christmann. These three players need to make their presence felt if they are allowed to play in Week 2. Incorporating these players into the lineup and developing quality depth are important goals for this game, to prepare MSU for the SEC contests which will soon emerge on the schedule. Not having had every starter in the lineup should give Mississippi State a small measure of belief that it can really raise its ceiling in future weeks. Week 2 can cement this point in a powerful way.
Key 3 – Killer Instinct
The Mississippi State defense did get five takeaways in Week 1, but it also allowed a 99-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs were inconsistent and did not play a complete 60-minute game. Not every game will involve five takeaways. The Bulldogs need to get more three-and-outs and more possessions on defense in which they physically overpower their opponents with superior effort.
Saturday‘s game kicks off at 2:30 PM CT (3:30 PM ET). Watch on the ESPNU Network.
SEC Football Stories For This Week
|Game||First Looks||3 Keys|
|W. Virginia vs. Missouri||W. Virginia||Mizzou||Preview||Mizzou 38, WVA 7||Stats|
|C. Southern vs. S. Carolina||C. Southern||USC||Preview||USC 72, CSU 10||Stats|
|Tulane vs. Auburn||Tulane||Auburn||Preview||Auburn 24, Tulane 6||Stats|
|N. Mexico St vs. Alabama||NMSU||Bama||Preview||Alabama 62, NMSU 10||Stats|
|USM vs. Mississippi St.||Southern Miss||MSU||Preview||MSU 38, USM 15||Stats|
|Texas A&M vs. Clemson||Clemson||Texas A&M||Preview||Clemson 24, A&M 10||Stats|
|E. Michigan vs. Kentucky||E. Michigan||Kentucky||Preview||UK 38, E Michigan 17||Stats|
|UT Martin vs. Florida||UT Martin||FLA||Preview||Florida 45, UTM 0||Stats|
|BYU vs. Tennessee||BYU||TEN||Preview||BYU 29, TEN 26||Stats|
|Arkansas vs. Ole Miss||OM / ARK||ARK||Preview||Ole Miss 31, Arkansas 17||Stats|
|Murray State vs. Georgia||Murray St||UGA||Preview||UGA 63, Murray St 17||Stats|
|LSU vs. Texas||Texas||LSU||Preview||LSU 45, Texas 38||Stats|
|Vanderbilt vs. Purdue||Purdue||Vandy||Preview||Purdue 42, Vandy 24||Stats|