Mississippi State’s Running Game is Historically Bad


Every week in the 2015 season we’ve discussed the running game. Over and over. Who’s the problem, why can’t the Bulldogs get things going? Shumpert, Holloway, etc. Dak’s not running, the O-line isn’t blocking…..there have been a dozen reasons why, but the bottom line is that Mississippi State is not running the football effectively. Dan Mullen came to State in 2009 and produced the 9th best rushing attack in the nation, and in 2010 it was ranked 16th – but so far in 2015 the rushing offense is 91st.

In terms of total rushing offense, things aren’t worse than they’ve ever been or anything like that. Actually, in 2012, MSU’s running game was ranked 84th in the nation with six less yards per game (144) than they currently average (150). But it’s the production from the running back unit that’s been so poor. The 2012 season featured pocket-passer Tyler Russell who had -5 yards rushing. Prescott is currently the leading rusher for MSU by a healthy margin….38% more yards than Ashton Shumpert (220 : 159).

You could argue that Mississippi State’s running backs aren’t to blame because the offensive line isn’t doing a good enough job of blocking. Perhaps you’d be right, but the fact remains that the Dawgs are void of a work horse running back which has been a program staple. If Jerious Norwood and Anthony Dixon could gain over 1,000 yards behind some of the worst lines to ever wear maroon then you can find a way to gain yards (maybe not 1,000 but more than they’re getting now).

For an accurate comparison, let’s go back to 1986. That’s 30 seasons including this year since Rockey Felker’s first year as head coach. Mississippi State transitioned from Emory Bellard’s wishbone offense that featured a heavy rushing attack.

Currently, MSU is on pace for its leading running back to have 318 yards on the season….and that’s with the easy, stat-padding games behind them.

1,000 yard rushers (Keffer McGee, J.J. Johnson, Jerious Norwood, Anthony Dixon, Vick Ballard, LaDarious Perkins, Josh Robinson)  don’t come every year, but State has never had a leading running back with less than 318 yards for the year since 1986. And there’s no telling how far back I’d have to go to find one.

The only year in which State’s leading running back had less than 400 yards was 1999 (not a bad sign since they went 10-2, but they had a top 10 defense on the other side). True freshman Dontae Walker led the running backs, and the team, in rushing with 384 yards. He did average 5.1 YPC, however, whereas Shumpert is averaging 3.8 so Walker may have been able to gain more yards if Jackie Sherrill played him more.

We’ve beat this dead horse until our arm is about to fall off, but the bottom line is the running backs aren’t getting it done. The offensive line has stepped up and taken blame for it, but that’s window dressing to avoid the real issue that Mullen is riding a guy who’s a step slow and another who’s not strong enough. He needs to play the freshman but he hasn’t prepared them to play.

We’ll see if anything changes in the second half of the season. The pace the running backs have set is not a good one and the remaining competition features a solid “group of five” team and five SEC games so it won’t be easy.

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