This question carries all the weight in the world when it comes to how you view State’s 20-7 defeat on Saturday night, doesn’t it? I’ve seen comments from both sides of the aisle – some say we played good, some say Bama just played bad.
The initial thoughts from that game have to be that we played really well. To hold Alabama to half their season scoring average is quite a feat, and that allowed MSU to stay in the game for four quarters. I’m sure most of Bulldog Nation went to bed Saturday night feeling good about what they saw despite losing.
But now that the dust has settled on the game – after you may have watched it again if you’re as insane as I am, do you feel like State played as well as we could have and the Tide are just better, or did we let one slip away?
Here’s what we know that’s undeniable – Alabama is better than Mississippi State. However, the best team doesn’t always win and anything can happen on any given Saturday. So when you’re crafting up the perfect scenario for a MSU victory, four Alabama turnovers and five penalties would be at the top of the list…and that’s what we got. Those turnovers, three of which allowed MSU to start in Bama territory, evened the playing field giving a team like State the opening it needed to beat Nick Saban and his Crimson Tide dynasty.
Alabama did not play bad. They made plays on both sides of the ball all night. On a couple of those turnovers, particularly Calhoun’s first INT, he just flat out made a play and got a takeaway. Still – they were not their usual selves in terms of protecting the football as they have averaged less than one turnover per game under Saban. Christian Holmes and Jamerson Love also had great opportunities at picks as well but weren’t able to secure them. They also made some uncharacteristic drops and penalties.
Give the boys at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball for Mississippi State credit – they did not allow Alabama to control them like the Tide usually do to teams. There’s no doubt the Dawgs wanted this game, and they proved it in the trenches. To go toe-to-toe with Bama like that was impressive.
It’s easy to salivate over the athletes MSU has right now and just be impressed by what they can do. You see it in the spring, in fall practice – in games like this where they hold their own. It’s easy to let their talent awe you, and just simply be amazed they are on our team. But hold up a minute – we are in the SEC. Everyone in the SEC has these athletes. Just by being in the SEC is why we have these athletes. Some have more than others, but there is no reason why we can’t make plays even against teams like Bama and LSU – so we can’t get too carried away because we make a few plays.
MSU’s defense played an incredible game. But the offense, and especially the special teams let them down. If your defense can manage to contain Alabama’s offense and flip the field with turnovers, that is your golden opportunity to score an upset. It doesn’t matter who is out with an injury you have to figure out a way to make some plays to win the game. You could play this game 10 times and Alabama is only going to make these mistakes once – we got that chance but didn’t capitalize. Points off turnovers, dropped balls, missed field goal and not even being able to attempt field goals were killer. I hate to bring it up, but Ole Miss capitalized when LSU made a number of turnovers – and they were without half their defense….so it can be done.
It’s not all on the players. Sure there were lapses in execution but the personnel decisions, especially continuing to trot out Perkins is mind-numbing. Not being able to field a quality special teams unit is infuriating as well – even the poorest of teams should be able to play decent in that area of football. That falls right on Dan Mullen’s head as he is the special teams coach. It’s been mediocre at best for 5 years.
So did State play well or did Bama play poorly? I think it’s a little bit of both. The Tide gave MSU an opening to win the game, and MSU’s defense forced a lot of that to happen by playing an ‘A’ game. But the bottom line is State did not get it done. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy with the game and glad to see us play like we did, but there are no moral victories because you played up to your potential in certain areas. Time to regroup and get the job done in Arkansas.