STARKVILLE — The Mississippi State football team isn”t panicking despite committing eight turnovers in its past two games.
Even coming off a dismal offensive performance Saturday in a 29-7 loss at LSU that exposed protection issues and poor decision-making from both quarterbacks, coach Dan Mullen and the players insist consistency is the missing link.
MSU (1-2, 0-2 Southeastern Conference) will continue to search for the formula for a complete game at 6 p.m. Saturday (Fox Sports Net) when it plays host to Georgia (1-2, 0-2) at Davis Wade Stadium.
The MSU coaching staff”s analysis of both of the team”s losses is identical: Blown assignments and missed plays have stalled the team”s start to league play.
Offensively, the Bulldogs have fallen on hard times following a 49-7 win against Memphis. MSU has scored 21 points in its past two games, and quarterbacks Chris Relf and Tyler Russell threw five total interceptions at LSU.
“We”re not far off,” Mullen said Monday. “When you watch film, the weaknesses are we just have no consistency. We had one offensive penalty the other night, coming after our longest play of the game, a 22-yard gain and then we jump offsides. That is what great offenses don”t do. That”s what I haven”t seen out of us, that consistent performance offensively.”
Both quarterbacks struggled against LSU, and the initiation of change for the offense won”t start under center. Relf, whom Mullen said did not suffer a concussion Saturday, will remain the team”s starter and Russell will continue to play.
The turnovers aren”t all attributed to the quarterbacks, as both were under heavy pressure Saturday. Linemen and running backs have been at fault in protection breakdowns, though left tackle Derek Sherrod acknowledged the line hasn”t played to its potential.
“You have to be a unit,” Sherrod said. “We had a couple of breakdowns in the game. We”re going to come out this week to try and correct that and have a more consistent approach coming into Saturday.”
Sherrod added there wasn”t much thrown the offensive line”s way Saturday that surprised them, and he praised MSU”s coaches for their preparation.
“We have everything we need to learn throughout the week,” Sherrod said. “We know what we”re capable of. We just need to bring things together.”
Defense not placing blame
MSU”s defense held LSU to five field goals despite five turnovers and an average starting position of the LSU 48-yard line.
But no one on that side of the ball is complaining.
The defense has been the most consistent aspect of the team this season after holding Memphis to seven points and Auburn to 17.
“When our offense puts the ball on the 50, that”s fine,” linebacker K.J. Wright said. “We know we have to go out there and keep playing and hold them to field goals.”
Thankfully for defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, the precarious starting field position and offensive struggles the past two games have given glimpse into the backbone of his players. It also has produced the same missed chances to create negative plays and turnovers.
One of two LSU drives that resulted in a touchdown was more than 70 yards.
“The first half was back-to-the-wall stuff, which really wasn”t a shock,” Diaz said. “Then come out in our first time on the field in the second half, with a little bit of momentum and the offense scoring a touchdown, and come out with probably one of our worst drives of defense of the season.
“As a coach, you admire our fortitude when we”re put in tough situations, but you”d like us to be able to respond when we have a little bit of an advantage.”
Tight end injury update
Tight end is suddenly a position of concern after injuries to the first- and second-team players.
Junior starter Marcus Green didn”t travel to LSU because of a knee injury he suffered against Auburn, and senior Brandon Henderson left the game with a knee injury.
Mullen said both ran Sunday at practice and would be re-evaluated today.
Henderson, who wore a wrap around his left knee Monday, said he played one down after hurting the knee against LSU but otherwise felt fine after running Sunday.
Neither Henderson nor Mullen disclosed the nature of the injury, though the former said he had been medically cleared for the game against Georgia.
“My knee is feeling good,” Henderson said. “It”s in the past now. I”m just looking forward to Georgia.”
MSU didn”t practice Monday. It will return to the field today.