STARKVILLE — To Steve Spurrier Jr., you’re only as good as your last game.
That’s why Mississippi State’s outside receivers coach noted Rara Thomas’ two drops Saturday at LSU along with a touchdown catch Spurrier called “elite” and three other big grabs.
For MSU to achieve the consistency it seeks, the Bulldogs must eliminate mistakes like Thomas’ — and their other three drops Saturday.
“That’s what we’ve got to do,” Spurrier said. “We’re a good team, and we play a lot of good teams, and if we’re going to beat teams, we have to be consistently good. We have to be.”
Speaking to media Wednesday, Spurrier referenced a costly Mississippi State drop on third-and-2 — and he could have been describing two completely different plays.
Rufus Harvey dropped a pass in that situation right before halftime in Baton Rouge, and Thomas dropped a third-and-2 toss on the Bulldogs’ opening drive in the third quarter.
Caleb Ducking also had a drop for MSU, totaling three drops in Spurrier’s outside unit (Ducking and Thomas) against LSU.
“In our offense, when you throw as much as we throw and you throw as many hopefully high-percentage passes, if you don’t hit them, you’re in trouble,” Spurrier said.
That was perhaps never clearer than Sept. 10 at Arizona when a Ducking drop became an interception for the Wildcats.
It was Mississippi State’s lone drop until a whopping five Saturday. MSU had two drops on each of two separate series — on that first drive of the second half and on back-to-back plays after LSU extended its lead to eight points.
The Tigers went on to win, 31-16.
“If you don’t play very well and you drop the ball, you’re in for a long night, especially versus a good team,” Spurrier said. “Hopefully we can get back and be a little more proficient this week.”
Brock remembers time at Bowling Green
Mississippi State linebackers coach Matt Brock remembers Bowling Green fondly.
Brock spent the 2016 and 2017 seasons with the Falcons before being hired to Mike Leach’s staff at Washington State along with Spurrier and current MSU assistants Mason Miller (offensive line) and Tyson Brown (strength and conditioning).
“Great college town,” Brock said. “I really enjoyed it. That’s where my daughter was born, so fond memories there.”
Perhaps most of those memories weren’t on the field. The Falcons went 4-8 in 2016 and just 2-10 the following year.
“We didn’t win as many games as I would have liked to, I’ll just be completely honest with you, so that part’s a little sour in my recollection of it,” Brock said.
He praised the college football tradition at Bowling Green and across the Buckeye State. Ohio has eight FBS teams, six of which are in the MAC — Toledo, Miami (Ohio), Kent State, Akron, Ohio and Bowling Green — along with Cincinnati and Ohio State.
“It’s a great place, great fanbase,” Brock said of Bowling Green. “They love football. Ohio’s very similar to the South in the way that it’s a football state. A lot of respect for that university and what they do.”
Bulldogs prep for McDonald, Falcons
Intercepting Arizona’s Jayden de Laura three times was a key to Mississippi State’s win over the Wildcats.
But Bowling Green quarterback Matt McDonald has yet to present those gifts to opposing defenses.
McDonald hasn’t thrown an interception this season, which Mississippi State defensive coordinator Zach Arnett said “obviously means he’s a really good decision-maker, has good control over their offense, knows where to go with the football and doesn’t give the defense as many opportunities to get takeaways.”
McDonald might not possess the speed of LSU’s Jayden Daniels but remains a dual threat who is Bowling Green’s leading rusher. Arnett said the Bulldogs must be prepared for designed bootleg runs from the Falcons’ signal caller.
Bowling Green typically starts two tight ends but sometimes uses packages with three or even four. Having extra blockers in the formation lets McDonald be patient in making his reads.
“They do a really good job of scheming up ways to move the pocket or provide protection so he has time to hit the shots,” Arnett said. “We’re going to have a challenge on our hands getting the pass rush.”
Bowling Green’s offense includes 6-foot-7 wide receiver Tyrone Broden, too, and the Falcons can be explosive. They led UCLA 17-7, scored 57 points (albeit in seven overtimes) against FCS foe Eastern Kentucky and beat Marshall in overtime last week.
Arnett knows the challenges the Falcons will pose Saturday.
“I would say they’re a very talented football team that can exploit you in a lot of ways,” he said.
Theo DeRosa reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.
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