Mike Leach earned his first signature win, and victory over a ranked opponent as Mississippi State defeated #15 Texas A&M 26-22 on Saturday. With the win, the Bulldogs improved to 3-2, with Alabama visiting Starkville after the bye week.
Most Mississippi State fans feel that the Bulldogs are a few missed plays, missed tackles, or punt returns that should have been blown dead from being undefeated. I agree because Mississippi State should have beaten Memphis and LSU escaped Starkville by the skin of their tiger tails. Here are my takeaways from the road win vs. #15 Texas A&M.
1. Makai Polk’s emergence
If I could award Makai Polk with the transfer of the year award through the first five games of the season, I would. Polk has emerged in his first season in maroon as the most reliable target for Will Rodgers. With Jaden Walley coming off a breakout freshman season and senior receivers Malik Heath and Austin Williams returning, I surely did not expect this.
Polk is always open, and Will Rogers wastes no time getting him the ball wherever he is on the field. He has more catches and touchdowns in five games than he had over two seasons at Cal. Polk is the second leading receptions leader in the country.
As Makai Polk continues his assault on the Mississippi State season receiving record books, defenses have to account for him, and that will allow other receivers to make an impact.
2. The Jett is flying high
I remember when Jett Johnson committed to play for Mississippi State in 2017. I figured he would be the next great Bulldog linebacker. Johnson was a tackling machine in high school. It took Johnson four years, but the Jett has finally taken off and is flying high as the leading tackler for Mississippi State.
Johnson has 37 total tackles, and two deflected passes. He doesn’t rush the passer just yet, but he has done his job thus far for Zach Arnett’s defense. In my opinion, Johnson has earned the right to start.
I would move Tyrus Wheat to DE opposite Randy Charlton and move Jaden Crumedy to the middle. I would start Johnson in the middle with Aaron Brule’ and Nathaniel Watson at the outside spots. Making these changes puts more athletes on the field and provides more speed on the edge.
3. Mike Leach beat a top 15 ranked team faster than Dan Mullen, Joe Moorhead, and Sylvester Croom
Yes, Joe Moorhead beat #8 Auburn on the field in 2018, but that win is not valid anymore. Sylvester Croom did not get his first win over a top 15 team until his win over #14 Kentucky in 2007. Croom earned his first signature win, defeating #20 Florida in 2004. For all of his success, Dan Mullen did not get his first win over a top 15 opponent until the legendary 2014 season with three straight against #8 LSU, #6 Texas A&M, and #2 Auburn.