Miss. State Bulldogs vs. Arizona Wildcats: The Bad
Unfortunately for Mississippi State, it was mostly a poor night on offense. The consensus is that much of that goes back to the play-calling, and I would agree with that. Kevin Barbay (and Zach Arnett?) chose to stick with a very basic gameplan even once Arizona adjusted defensively. Play-calling got predictable, and State’s players were not put into the best position to succeed.
But execution certainly lacked from State’s offense too, particularly along the offensive line. State got great push up front in the run game early on, but that did not continue as the game went along.
On this 2nd down midway through the 4th quarter, with State in prime position to put a TD on the board, you get a good example of how things went on the ground after the first few drives. State runs a same-side GY Counter. Marks is looking to get downhill on the same side of the line to which he’s aligned with the LG and TE acting as his lead blockers.
But of State’s six blockers on the ball, only four successfully block their man. C Cole Smith is tasked with getting a down block on DT Tyler Manoa (92), and Manoa wins that battle. As soon as Manoa sees the pullers going away from him, he fights off of Smith’s block to meet Marks in the gap. This is a good play from Manoa, but you need Smith to drive him back there.
Even if Smith had won his matchup, this play still likely goes for a minimal gain because RT Kam Jones completely whiffs on his block against WLB Jacob Manoa. Furthermore, this play is a great example of how predictable play-calling killed State. One of Zona’s safeties walks down into the box pre-snap, and their nickel doesn’t exactly stay locked in on Creed Whittemore in the slot. They knew a run was coming, and they were ready to pounce.
Pass protection might have been the biggest issue of the night. Will Rogers didn’t get many dropbacks in this game, but when he did, Arizona was able to get plenty of pressure. Much of this comes back to the predictability just mentioned. Many of State’s passes came in obvious passing situations, and they attacked in those spots. But you also just had multiple instances of the OL getting beat.
A big critique was the lack of shot plays called by Barbay.
Once Arizona began to commit to stopping the run, State should’ve made them pay with play-action. It’s a valid criticism, but to some extent, you can understand why you didn’t see much of that. Rogers didn’t have time for downfield pass attempts.
Here State tries to take a deep shot off of play-action from midfield on 1st down early in the 4th. They keep the TE in to help protect on the edge, but that ultimately doesn’t matter because MSU’s interior OL get whipped. Zona has two NTs on the field, and they twist to attack Cole Smith and RG Steven Losoya.
Both rushers burst through, forcing Rogers to quickly escape the pocket and throw the ball away.