Mississippi State football survived in a wild game against Arizona. What did we see out of the Bulldogs’ offense?
It took just two games in the 2023 season for us to all be reminded what being a Mississippi State football fan is like. The Bulldogs survived in overtime against Arizona with a 31-24 victory, but few, if any, fans walked away from the performance with much confidence in the team going forward.
Despite a fast start, State’s offense sputtered throughout much of the game and squandered opportunities to put the game away. Defensively, State made Arizona QB Jayden de Laura pay for his sporadic play. But once he settled down, the Bulldog defense had a hard time getting off the field.
We’ll look at the defense in another piece, as there are plenty of issues to discuss on that side of the ball. But offensively, things looked pretty rough. Through State’s first three drives of the game, they ran 18 plays for 131 yards (7.3 yards per play) and put 14 points on the board. One of those drives ended with a fumble on 4th and goal and another started from just six yards out, but still. They moved the ball efficiently.
For the remainder of the game, State ran 38 plays for just 176 yards (4.6 yards per play) and scored 17 points. And that, of course, is including overtime. Even if you discount kneel-downs to end the half, the average yards per play only goes up to five. They ended regulation with under 300 yards of offense.
State gashed Zona in the run game early on to build out a 14-0 lead. With the defense forcing turnovers seemingly every time they took the field, it looked like it was going to be a rout.
But then things fell apart. Play-calling got incredibly predictable, the blocking up front turned poor, and Arizona began shutting down the Bulldog offense. After turning the Wildcats’ first two interceptions into scores, State got nothing out of the next three turnovers forced. After what should have been a game-sealing pick for Jett Johnson, State went three-and-out, giving Zona a final chance to force overtime, which they did.
There’s no sugarcoating it.
This was a bad night for the Bulldog offense and a bad night for coordinator Kevin Barbay. They are lucky to have walked away with a win. Let’s look at what worked (the little that did) and what went wrong.