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STM Bulldogs GameDay: Mississippi State Steps Back to Offensive Mediocrity in 19-3 Loss to LSU

Mississippi State’s 23-9 win over Auburn was supposed to signify a change in the way the Bulldogs approached things on offense, a revitalized running game leading Joe Moorhead’s squad back to where the preseason expectations had them. Instead, it appears to have been a flash in the pan, as the Bulldogs regressed to the poor form they showed against Kentucky and Florida, only racking up 260 yards in a 19-3 loss to LSU in Tiger Stadium Saturday night.

THE PLAY

It started off as poorly for Mississippi State as it possibly could, as Nick Fitzgerald threw an interception on the Bulldogs’ third play from scrimmage, setting up the only touchdown for either team. Fitzgerald would go on to throw three more picks, putting up some of his worst numbers ever as the starting quarterback, 8-24 for 59 yards and those four interceptions. While Fitzgerald did pile up 131 yards on the ground, his inability to move the football through the air has finally ground the offense to a halt. At this point, you have to wonder whether or not Moorhead will make a change to sophomore Keytaon Thompson, if for nothing else that it is apparent the offense cannot run through Fitzgerald’s legs alone.

THE PLAYER

At the end of the day, you have to pin all of this on Fitzgerald and Moorhead. Fitzgerald has regressed as a passer to the point where he almost isn’t recognizable, and yet Moorhead continued to send him out there Saturday night. Obviously I can’t say for sure if a change is going to make a difference, but the struggles have reached the point where you need to give Keytaon Thompson a chance. It’s been incredible to watch how much Fitzgerald has dropped off from a season ago, and even then he was never a world beater. Now his play is costing his team. If Moorhead is unwilling to make the change, then he is going to face the wrath of an already enraged fanbase.

WAS ANYTHING GOOD?

Once again, Mississippi State’s defense goes to the locker room knowing it did enough to win, but it was betrayed by the offense. Montez Sweat added to his league leading sack total, the Bulldogs held the Tigers to under three yards per carry, and they forced a turnover that shut down a drive deep in MSU territory. MSU also added to their SEC leading total of tackles for loss with five stops behind the line. But all of that was thrown away by the Bulldog offense, who simply could not take advantage of the countless opportunities the defense handed them.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Texas A&M enjoyed an off date this weekend, but the Aggies are on of the nation’s hottest teams. They’ve only dropped two games this year, both to undefeated Alabama and Clemson. Jimbo Fisher has the Aggie rebuild seemingly ahead of schedule, and they’ll come to Starkville with a good bit of confidence. On the other hand, Mississippi State looks like a team that will struggle to keep it together mentally, as the season has finally begun to unravel around them. Basically, you have one team that is overachieving versus a team that is underachieving. Playing at home might be the Bulldogs’ only saving grace.

WHAT’S HAPPENING TO MSU?

You guys remember this right? Mississippi State’s elite defense was going to pair with one of the nation’s most innovative offenses to elevate this season to one of the best in Bulldog history. Well the defense has held up its end of the bargain, but offensively, it’s been a complete debacle. You can’t come into a program that has a history of winning, poised for its best season in years, and with the reputation of an offensive guru, and then watch your team play like this. That is how coaches end up on the hot seat even only after a year. Mississippi State is losing winnable games because its offense can’t perform at an even average level. Does anybody still have faith in Joe Moorhead? Do fans still believe in his long term vision for the program? Moorhead was handed the reigns to a program that was built for sustained success, but somehow in the name of elevating it, has taken it back to where it was a decade ago. Memes and comparisons like the one above seemed impossible two months ago, but now, Bulldog fans are clearly concerned they’ve been sold a bill of goods, and the program that had grown accustomed to postseason play may be on the verge of a return to the bad old days.

We’ll discuss this and a whole lot more this on SportsTalk Mississippi and The Thunder & Lightning Podcast. Can the Bulldogs regroup and finish this month with some momentum, or are they looking at another loss when Texas A&M comes to Starkville? We’ll get all that and much more all this week.

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