Mississippi State football vs. Arizona Wildcats: The Good
Not much went right for Mississippi State offensively, but there were a few nice highlights. I asked in the offseason if MSU would be a Wide Zone team, and they’ve answered that with an emphatic yes. Wide Zone has become the foundation of State’s ground-game, and really, the whole offense. It’s far and away been their most-repped concept.
We won’t go into a breakdown, but thus far, I’ve been impressed with how quickly they’ve picked it up. There’s a real transition made going from the simplified run game in the Air Raid to leaning heavy on a Wide Zone concept that can be pretty nuanced. Woody Marks’ big runs have been off Wide Zone, and he posted another 100-yard performance.
The biggest positive of the night was a breakout performance for WR Tulu Griffin. Tulu had the best game of his career, hauling in five receptions for 83 yards and a pair of TDs. No player has been singled-out more by the coaching staff as someone who needs to see several designed touches per game, and we got a taste of that Saturday.
On the second drive of the game, Griffin took a screen pass 23 yards to the house to put State’s first points on the board. State lines up in an empty set with trips into the boundary. Arizona has a hard time aligning, and really, State probably could have thrown a basic quick screen with two receivers blocking for Tulu and it still be a score, as there were just two defenders to that side.
But State dresses this up a little more.
Creed Whittemore motions across as if to take a jet sweep. This holds both the LBs and the single-high safety, who flow with the sweep. Rogers fakes the sweep to Creed and throws the screen back to Tulu. RT Kam Jones releases out as a lead blocker, and Tulu is able to race up the sideline for the TD.
The interesting thing about this play is it’s possible this was actually a RPO.
If you watch Will Rogers, you’ll notice his eyes are on the LBs. You can also see the rest of the OL and the WRs to the top of the screen all blocking as if it’s a jet sweep. This might be a case where if the LBs don’t follow the sweep, Will can hand that off. Or it’s just a lot of window dressing and a well-executed fake.
Either way, it’s a well-designed play.
Tulu’s second TD was another really nice play-call. Early in the 3rd quarter with a 1st and 10 from the Arizona 15, Barbay calls for a “screen and go”. State aligns in an unbalanced pistol formation with three WRs and a TE to the right and no pass-catchers to the left. The TE is actually ineligible here. They showed this formation a few times during the game.
Rogers fakes a quick screen to Jaden Walley. Justin Robinson blocks for a second before releasing up the seam. Tulu turns up field on a wheel route. Both Robinson and Tulu are wide open for scores, and Rogers chooses Tulu.