The start of the post-Dak Prescott era in Starkville arguably couldn’t have gone off to a worse start. The Mississippi State Bulldogs dropped their 2016 season opener 21-20 to the visiting South Alabama Jaguars on Saturday afternoon earning themselves an 0-1 start to the year with a brutal home loss out of the gate.
The Bulldogs held a lead for the majority of the game before letting South Alabama creep back in late in the 4th quarter. A touchdown catch by Gerald Everett with roughly a minute to play in the ball game was the proverbial equalizer as it knotted the score up at 20 before the PAT was subsequently drilled by kicker Gavin Patterson. Mississippi State would respond with a lengthy drive but Westin Graves’ attempt at a game-winning field goal clanged off the upright, evaporating the chance that Mississippi State would be able to escape the game with a victory.
Here’s what we learned;
1. Mississippi State leaves with a self-inflicted wound: Given the dynamics of this game, there should be no reason why the Bulldogs would drop such a contest to the South Alabama Jaguars. The Jags should be commended for their efforts, on the road no less, in beating Mississippi State but this is simply a very bad loss for Dan Mullen’s club. It will be very difficult going forward to get past this defeat as the best nonconference team the Bulldogs will face going forward is a road game at BYU. The hill just got a whole lot tougher for Mississippi State to climb, that much is certain.
2. Damian Williams fared pretty well: While Dak Prescott is certainly missed, optimism can at least be pinned on Damian Williams’ shoulders. Williams threw 20-for-28 on the day with a touchdown. The yardage wasn’t there — just 143 yards through the air — but you can bet that this will be built upon going forward.
3. The Bulldogs’ rushing unit looks pretty great: Another positive takeaway from this game is that Mississippi State’s rushing unit ran all over the Jaguars. On the whole they averaged 7.0 yards per carry on 34 attempts, amassing just shy of 240 yards rushing. Damian Williams flashed his ability to use his legs, accounting for 93 yards on the ground. Brandon Holloway rushed for 48 yards on 11 carries with a touchdown as well. There aren’t many bright spots that you can take from a loss like this. However, the ground game looks pretty stout for the Bulldogs this year.