Mississippi State had been in a tailspin entering Saturday, and the thought was that playing Samford would cure those woes.
In principle, they did, as the Bulldogs would celebrate a victory for the first time in over a month, knocking off Samford 56-41.
Therein lies the problem though. The final score was 56-41. Samford, of the FCS, was able to go into Starkville and put up 41 points on the Bulldogs. Against a team who you should have a decided advantage in as far as player personnel, you probably shouldn’t be allowing 40-plus points and let them hang around from start to finish.
Nonetheless, that’s what went down, and at 3-5 now, State can certainly celebrate the win, but there are still concerns going forward as the difficulty level increases.
3 things we learned:
1. Mississippi State’s pass defense still remains problematic: State’s advanced passing defense numbers weren’t good coming into the game. They’d let up lots of explosive plays and were ranked 106th in Passing S&P+ and 84th in Success Rate. Suffice it to say, letting quarterback Devlin Hodges throw 468 yards on Saturday afternoon isn’t going to do much to cure that, nor is letting wide receiver Karel Hamilton amount 213 receiving yards and two scores on his own. Things are only going to get tougher, so it could be a very ugly November for this pass defense to say the least.
2. State’s run game made a big impact: Specifically the play of Nick Fitzgerald, the Mississippi State ground game earned itself a big day. The Bulldogs ran for 252 yards on the ground against Samford, with Fitzgerald amassing 119 of those 252 yards gained on the run. This continues to be the area that is the brightest of spots on either side of the ball, so that they were successful wasn’t all that surprising.
3. This struggle today does not give way to optimism going forward: As we mentioned in the preview the month of November will be brutal for Mississippi State as they go on to face Texas A&M, Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss in consecutive weeks. The chances of scooping up three wins to get to bowl eligibility are awfully slim, so it would appear that they’ll be missing a bowl game for the first time since the first year of Dan Mullen’s tenure in Starkville (2010).