NEW ORLEANS — It wasn’t the 56-10 thrashing Mississippi State gave Louisiana a year ago.
But at the very least, the Bulldogs earned a 38-28 victory Saturday in the season opener against the Ragin’ Cajuns in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Joe Moorhead doesn’t have much choice but to take the win and move on.
The Bulldogs gave reasons for both optimism and concern moving forward, but the main takeaway for now is MSU is 1-0 entering its home opener against Southern Mississippi.
A quick programming note concerning Bulldog Bullets: this will be a weekly recurring article filled with short observations and commentary written throughout Mississippi State football games that posts shortly after the final gun.
Anyway, to the Bulldog Bullets:
— Moorhead didn’t need to be told who his best offensive player is Saturday. Junior running back Kylin Hill torched Louisiana, rushing for 197 yards on 27 carries with one touchdown. Moorhead gave Hill 10 carries in the first quarter for 74 yards, then seven more in the second to put him at 17 touches for 130 yards at halftime. If the Bulldogs are going to have a special season, Hill is going to be at the center of it.
– The poor Louisiana safety responsible for covering Mississippi State wideout Osirus Mitchell on MSU’s opening drive has to still be spinning after biting on the play-action. Tommy Stevens connected with Mitchell for the easiest touchdown of his life, a 31-yard strike where Mitchell was so open he could have crawled into the end zone. The Bulldogs’ first series by the numbers: six plays, 74 yards.
– By the way, nice day for Mitchell: six catches for 88 yards.
– First impression of Tommy Stevens gets him a grade of B-minus. Stevens did complete 66 percent of his passes, but overthrew Mitchell on what surely would have been a touchdown pass and had some miscommunication with wideout Stephen Guidry on what looked to be a corner route. Even though Stevens is a senior, it’s important to remember that he’s inexperienced and is learning on the job. He should improve week-to-week. Anyhow, the graduate transfer completed 20 of 30 passes for 236 yards, two touchdowns and also ran for a touchdown.
– The first Louisiana play from scrimmage resulted in a Cam Dantzler interception. Dantzler grew up in Hammond, 44 miles from the Superdome, so that had to be a cool moment for the MSU junior defensive back.
– I’d like to nominate Ragin’ Cajuns quarterback Levi Lewis as the early nominee for worst play of the year candidate after he lost 23 yards on a 4th-and-1 attempt. He delivered another nomination for this prestigious award with a “what-the-heck-was-that” pass that was so sore on the eyes, officials eventually ruled it a fumble early in the second quarter.
– Don’t blame Stevens for that fumble on MSU’s second series. Louisiana linebacker Mike Jacquet Ill came completely untouched on a blitz and blindsided Stevens. Nothing you can really do about that.
– Taury Dixon didn’t have his finest moment late in the first quarter. His costly special teams mistake gift wrapped Louisiana’s first touchdown.
– Jordan Lawless missed a chip-shot 27-yard field goal at the start of the second quarter, providing more angst for State fans. MSU sure did its best to let the Ragin Cajuns hang around all day.
– Nick Gibson had a really nice cutback on his eight-yard touchdown scamper. The senior running back has said numerous times in fall camp he expects big things from himself and Hill this season. It was primarily the Hill show against Louisiana, but Gibson added made the most of his two carries and racked up 27 yards on the ground in Game 1.
– With five seconds remaining in the first half, Louisiana took a knee at midfield, giving MSU a free play before the half ended. Not sure I’ve seen something like that before.
– I’m a little confused by MSU’s first half kickoff strategy of kicking the ball short each time. It gave the Ragin’ Cajuns decent field position on more than one occasion.
– State’s first series in the second half was a thing of beauty. Nine plays, 65 yards, 4 minutes taken off the clock thanks to the Hill show.
– Hopefully, the injuries to MSU offensive linemen Dareuan Parker and Darryl Williams aren’t serious. Williams in particular is the heart and soul of the unit and would be difficult to replace.
– Tucker Day’s 36-yard punt to pin Louisiana at the one to start the fourth quarter was just about perfect. So, naturally, he follows that up with another perfect punt placed at the one with 7:21 remaining in the fourth quarter.
– I thought the Superdome would be a cool venue for a college football game, considering how awesome the Sugar Bowl is and all. To be honest, Saturday was kind of a dud from an atmosphere standpoint. Saying the venue was half-full would be generous at best with 22,440 fans announced to be in attendance. The upper deck was completely empty and there appeared to be more Mississippi State fans in attendance than Louisiana fans (at what was counted as a Louisiana home game). Next week’s home opener against Southern Miss at Davis Wade Stadium should be much more lively.
– Mississippi State announced Lee Autry, Jace Christmann, Willie Gay Jr., Devonta Jason, Kwatrivous Johnson, Marcus Murphy and Michael Story were suspended for the season opener for a “violation of team rules.” Obviously, some of these guys are caught up in the NCAA’s academic misconduct investigation into MSU and will have to miss seven more games. But because some of these other names might be suspended on a much shorter-term basis, it’ll be a wait and see approach to find out what players are available on a week-to-week basis.
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