After his Mississippi State team’s loss in the Music City Bowl, a 38-28 defeat at the hands of Louisville, Joe Moorhead told the media assembled that a book could have been written about his squad’s 2019 campaign. The final chapter would be a disappointing one, as the Bulldogs were unable to move offensively against the Cardinal’s 115th ranked defense, and were equally inept in slowing down their offense, giving up 510 yards. State finishes the season 6-7, only the second losing season of the decade for the maroon and white, but a year that was possibly the most frustrating four months for the Bulldog faithful in many years.
IT STARTED OUT SO WELL
Senior RB Nick Gibson punches it in for a 3-yard TD. Correction, Kylin Hill needs 48 yards for the single-season rush record (-3 yards on first carry).@HailStateFB 14@UofLFootball 0#HailState 🐶🛎 | #GoCards | @MusicCityBowl @WLOX pic.twitter.com/UdCRMVNcPE
— Josh Berrian (@_joshonair) December 30, 2019
Mississippi State got out to a great start on Monday, taking a 14-0 lead on Louisville and looking like they would be able to control the game on the ground much the same way Kentucky had in the Cardinal’s season finale. But from this point, Louisville would rattle off 31 consecutive points, taking control of the game, and not allowing the Bulldogs another first down until the midway point of the fourth quarter. Joe Moorhead didn’t have much in the way of answers as to how the game slipped away so quickly, but it certainly seemed to turn on a dime after Gibson’s score.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT SEASON?
Mississippi State LB Willie Gay Jr. with a vicious TFL on 3rd down in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. pic.twitter.com/zS2l9YCo9b
— Bobby Football (@RobPaulNFL) December 30, 2019
If you really look at Mississippi State’s roster for next season and try to put together a way too early depth chart, you have to ask yourself where the Bulldogs are going to get offense from. Kylin Hill is off to the NFL Draft, and Nick Gibson was a senior. State has very little in terms of proven talent at the receiver position, and your starting tight end is graduating as well. Garrett Shrader certainly looks like he can become a star, but this isn’t like 2014 when Dak Prescott blossomed with Josh Robinson, De’Runnya Wilson, Fred Ross, Fred Brown, and Malcolm Johnson around him.
State has an opportunity to be better defensively in 2020, with most of the two deep back on campus. Willie Gay showed why he is the top talent on that side of the ball Monday, and having him for a full season will be a huge boost, as he and Errol Thompson should make for the best linebacker duo in the conference. Freshmen dotted the depth chart this year, and Fabian Lovett, Jaden Crumedy, Nathan Pickering, Martin Emerson, and Jarrian Jones will all have the chance to step up next year. But will that be enough to overcome what looks like a potentially worse offense? In Moorhead’s first year, even the nation’s top ranked defense could only carry the team to 8 wins.
Moorhead still has a few scholarships left to give out for next year, and it seems prudent for him to try and get some instant impact players on offense, probably through use of the transfer portal. A veteran running back might be the first choice, then a receiver who can finally break the 500 yard threshold no Bulldog has crossed since 2016. Whatever happens in the offseason, it seems obvious 2020 will be the last straw for Moorhead. If he can put the program back on the track it was on prior to his arrival, all will be well. Another step back, and December will be about a coaching search, not a bowl game.
Photo courtesy of Mississippi State athletics