Photo courtesy of Mississippi State Athletics
Story by SportsTalk Mississippi MSU Beat Reporter Brian Hadad
Mississippi State had to fight until the final moments on Saturday to ensure victory, eventually leaving the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with a 38-28 victory over Louisiana. It was not the cleanest game for the Bulldogs, as missed tackles, special teams gaffes, and confusion on defense kept the Ragin’ Cajuns in the game throughout.
Tommy Stevens was impressive for MSU in his debut, completing 20 of 30 passes for 236 yards and 2 touchdowns, to go with a rushing score as well. Kylin Hill was the star in maroon and white on the day, racking up 197 yards on 27 carries, a new career-high in touches for him. Defensively, the Bulldogs couldn’t have looked less like last year’s top-ranked unit, giving up 431 yards of offense to UL. There is definitely room for improvement in Bob Shoop’s unit, and Joey Jones as well, as a missed field goal and a turnover off a punt gave Louisiana opportunities to stay in the game.
Related: Moorhead, Stevens Recap Mississippi State’s Season-Opening Win
It was a nice debut for Stevens, who looked the part in his first appearance in maroon and white. Completing 67% of his passes was good enough, but more importantly, Stevens looked in command of the offense, finding second and third reads, moving around in the pocket, and leading his team to nearly 500 yards of total offense. He was buoyed by the presence of Kylin Hill, who continues to do great things when given a chance. Hill had more carries in this game than he did in any 2018 contest, and that 7.3 yards per carry average is quite impressive. Stevens and his ability to throw the football is what is going to make or break this Mississippi State offense, and in his first test, Stevens passed with flying colors.
FEAR THE DEAR @Malik_Dear22 with a great punt return to set up a touchdown. pic.twitter.com/BLUTv8VF9G
— Elite Dawgs (@EliteDawgs) August 31, 2019
With MSU up 28-14, a great punt by Tucker Day pinned UL inside its own 10. State’s defense held for a 3 and out, leading to this punt, which Malik Dear nearly took all the way. Special teams were a mixed bag for Mississippi State on the day, but this play set the stage for what would become the winning margin, a 12-yard touchdown pass by Stevens to Austin Williams. State has been sorely lacking any kind of explosive plays in the return game for a few seasons now, perhaps Dear can provide that spark.
IN DEFENSE OF THE DEFENSE
Mississippi State could not have looked less like the 2018 defensive squad, which terrorized opponents en route to a #1 ranking statistically. Today, the Bulldogs were a terror to themselves, missing tackles and just looking uncomfortable against Billy Napier’s misdirection based attack. State was missing three key players via suspension, Lee Autry, Willie Gay, and Marcus Murphy all out, but a lot more was expected from this group. That said, it was the first game of the year with a lot of new faces. Bob Shoop is a veteran coordinator who has enjoyed a lot more success than failure. I would expect to see some of these shortcomings addressed and fixed as the season progresses.
The day we’ve all been waiting for!
🆚 Alcorn State
⏰ 6 p.m.
📍 The Rock
📲 USM Gameday app
🎟 https://t.co/L1X5Iro7BN#30K5TIMES | #SMTTT pic.twitter.com/8FoWNijZU9
— Southern Miss FB (@SouthernMissFB) August 31, 2019
Southern Mississippi will likely be 1-0 when they arrive in Starkville next Saturday to renew their rivalry with the Bulldogs. Jack Abraham will lead a solid Golden Eagle offense, so Mississippi State will have to be better than they were today on defense if they want to have an easier path to victory. Kickoff is set for 2:30 PM at Davis Wade Stadium.
Photo courtesy of Mississippi State athletics
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