AUBURN, Ala. — There’s not a whole lot of positive things to report from Jordan-Hare Stadium from a Mississippi State perspective.
The defense allowed an astounding 56 points in a 56-23 defeat by No. 7 Auburn, and outside of a few bright spots, the offense was suffocated for most of the night.
This was, by far, the worst loss of the Joe Moorhead era. More on that in a column later.
A quick programming note for those who are new here: Bulldog Bullets 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.
To the Bulldog Bullets:
– Look, I think deep down everyone expected this defense to take a step back after losing three first round picks. Regression seemed inevitable. Forgivable, even. And it should be said Auburn is a terrific football team fully deserving of its No. 7 ranking. But allowing 56 points is flat out unacceptable.
– No other way to say it. Mississippi State’s tackling was abysmal.
– It’s really unfortunate how this year has unfolded for senior quarterback Tommy Stevens. You can tell the graduate transfer really wants to be out there, but it’s also clear as day his shoulder is still not healthy. Maybe it will be fully healed for MSU’s next game against Tennessee after the bye week, but this is the third game this season Stevens started, then had to exit the contest because he re-aggravated his shoulder.
– If there’s any silver lining to take from Stevens’ injury, it’s that true freshman Garrett Shrader continues to show flashes of brilliance at quarterback. He still makes silly rookie mistakes and is clearly in need of more reps, but the intangibles, running ability and arm talent are there. Facing an elite defense like Auburn’s will only prepare him for big games down the road in a year or two.
– Two delay of game penalties on the Bulldogs’ opening offensive series. Then Auburn’s first play of scrimmage is a 30-yard touchdown run. Not ideal.
– Someone better check on poor Bully. The lovable pooch got run over by Auburn running back JaTarvious Whitlow on the Tigers’ opening series. Bully left the game but thankfully later returned.
– Auburn only needed eight plays to go up 21-0.
– It didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, but Osirus Mitchell’s one-handed snag is about as good of a catch as you’ll see.
– Another game, another instance where Kylin Hill leaps over a defensive back. Other than that highlight play, Hill didn’t find much running room against the daunting Auburn front seven.
– Shrader should have had his second touchdown pass of the night on a slant route from Jaquarius Lawrence in the second quarter, but Lawrence couldn’t haul the pass in. The Bulldogs had to settle for a field goal instead.
– There’s no doubt his teammates appreciate the effort Shrader gives every game, but diving for extra yards on first down at the six-yard line seems ill-advised. It resulted in a very costly fumble.
– I don’t understand how Erroll Thompson was called for targeting just before the half. Could it have been ruled a personal foul for a late hit? Absolutely. But targeting? Not a chance.
– An unsportsmanlike penalty from Moorhead wiped out what would have been a first down after a Auburn defender was penalized for hitting Shrader late. The game was long over by then, but it just adds to a frustrating night all around for the Maroon and White.
– The Bulldogs’ defense has now forced a turnover in 21 straight games.
– Closing thought: Mississippi State played awful Saturday. I think we’ve established that by now. But I’m going to wait a few weeks before making assumptions about what this team is going to be. College football is so week-to-week sometimes it’s not even funny.
Example A: Texas A&M lost to Auburn by a touchdown on the road last week, then barely survived the hapless Razorbacks on Saturday.
Example B: Former Purdue quarterback David Blough threw for a whopping 48 yards against Eastern Michigan in 2018 before torching Missouri’s secondary by throwing for 572 yards a week later.
The moral of the story: I’m going to need to see more games before completely writing this team off, but the Bulldogs’ performance against an elite SEC team doesn’t inspire confidence.
Hodge is the former sports editor for The Dispatch.