Thoughts from the Mississippi State Game

Sumlin MSU

Thanks to the Astros Game 5 and my going to Game 6 in Los Angeles, this week’s blog is going to be pretty short.  It’s been hard to focus on Aggie football since Saturday night.  Plus, there’s not really much to say about the game if you watched it.  It was a complete embarrassment.  The team had two weeks off and came out flat and with no real wrinkles.

October 28th isn’t technically November but for Aggie football it might as well be.  All of this talk in the offseason about making changes to avoid the November collapse looks like hogwash.  Mississippi State is a good football team but there’s no reason why we couldn’t have beat them on Saturday night.  No reason at all.  The Aggies got outcoached both in mental preparation, scheme, and in game coaching.  Dan Mullen owned Kevin Sumlin like he’s done much of his tenure at Mississippi State when Johnny Football wasn’t playing for the Aggies.  Kevin Sumlin is now 1-3 against Dan Mullen when Johnny Football isn’t involved.  Dan Mullen coaches Mississippi State and Kevin Sumlin coaches Texas A&M.  We’re not the maroon school with the better coach.  That much is clear.

Offense:

I don’t have a problem with the first two play calls with the deep routes.  Mond missed the first one and Ratley missed the second one.  The plays were there but the players didn’t execute.  That’s not on Mazzone at all as much as I bag on him.  If Ratley catches that ball it might honestly have been a completely different ball game giving the players and fans some life.  Then again probably not because 33 yards in the first half is REALLY bad.  I mean REALLY bad.  More than likely even if Ratley catches that second pass the offense still would have struggled.  We just would have had 7 points on the board making it look more competitive.

I’ll be direct and say the offensive line is hot garbage and our receiving corps is really bad too.  The receiving corps will flash some plays at times but for the most part they’re pretty bad.  The offensive line just looked like hot garbage the entire game.  They got owned all night.  I’m a fan of Jim Turner but it’s becoming evident he’s only a good offensive line coach when he’s coaching NFL players on the offensive line.  We’re 8 games into the season and our offensive line wasn’t even serviceable.  We couldn’t establish a running game at all because there were no holes.  A good but not great MSU defensive line was whipping our offensive line all night.  It was bad.

As for quarterback I have no idea if we have a quarterback controversy on our hand.  For it to be a controversy I think we’d need one of them to step up and make plays.  Neither have really done that even with Starkel’s limited snaps.  Mond looked as bad as he did in the UCLA game.  Maybe it was because he didn’t have time most of the night but he didn’t make throws when someone was open.  His worst pass all night was when he hit the MSU defender in the back who had Trayveon covered on the wheel route.  Why he let that ball go I have no idea but suffice to say it’s the mark of a player who didn’t have much confidence in himself or just confused the whole game.

What Starkel did was better than Mond but don’t forget he was doing it against MSU scrubs and they weren’t prepared for him at all.  What he did was basically practice work.  I wouldn’t put much stock in it.  Starkel was 8 of 15 for 133 yards with one play being 70 yards.  Take that play away and he’s 7 of 14 for 63 yards.  That’s still better than Mond but not a dominant performance by any stretch considering the game was over.  It’s crazy to think 2 weeks ago we were wondering if Starkel would ever see a meaningful snap at A&M ever again.  Funny how we forget November was looming on the schedule.

How we should handle the quarterbacks from here on out I don’t really know.  To me the play of the quarterback isn’t the main issue.  It’s the offensive line, play calling, and lack of separation by the receivers.  I think Johnny Football himself would struggle in this offense.  This offense has only really looked good in the first half against UCLA when we came out and established the run and against Arkansas because their defense is pretty bad.

I’ve been saying for a while if our defense struggled we’d be hosed because this offense just isn’t that great.  Saturday night proved that out in a big way.  I have a feeling we’ll see a repeat of Saturday night two more times this season if not three.

Defense:

It’s really hard to grade this defense on what happened on Saturday night.  They certainly didn’t play spectacular but they weren’t as bad as the stat sheet and score shows.  For most of the first half they were playing with passion.  Unfortunately they were out there for over 20 minutes in the first half.  Even on a cool night that’s going to wear down a defense at some point.  In the end time of possession was 36 minutes to 24 minutes so the second half was a little more balanced.  Still, the offense gave the defense no help all night.  It reminded me a lot of last year’s MSU game.  Mullen was just more prepared than Chavis.

What I saw was Chavis trying to use his four down linemen to apply pressure on their own.  The linebackers seemed to be doing a lot of reacting rather than anticipating.  I don’t know if that was because they were seeing stuff they hadn’t planned on but the linebackers definitely weren’t exerting their will all game like they’ve done in other games.  There was a lot of sitting back waiting for the play rather than applying pressure for most of the game.  There were certainly times when we brought linebacker pressure but it seemed to be less in this game.  Maybe I made that up but it seemed like less.

Overall this defense just didn’t play spectacular.  I think they played good enough to win if the offense had shown some form of life early on but even then I’m talking a 24-21 win so it wouldn’t have been a dominant defensive effort.  Why that is I can’t put my finger on.  Maybe it was a new scheme by MSU or maybe Chavis was scared to apply too much pressure with the offense sputtering the entire first half.  Either way this wasn’t the defense we’d seen the last few games.  I’m still with Chief for the most part but he needs to show up better.  What scares me most is Auburn’s offense is similar to MSU’s with a mobile quarterback they like to use to establish the run.  We’ll find out more about our defense against Auburn.

Special Teams:

Nothing spectacular out of our special teams unit other than I have to say they did a good job getting pressure to the punter even tipping the ball once.  I’ve said all season that since we’re not setting up returns well we’d be better off applying pressure in hopes of blocking one.  Jeff Banks must read this blog as we’ve doing that since the Bama game it seems.  Other than that though I didn’t notice anything we haven’t seen all season.

Looking Forward:

It is simply amazing how things have changed in two weeks.  After the Florida game it looked like Sumlin had saved his job.  It looked really possible he could pull off 9 wins or win 8 games and be competitive in the losses.  That’s changed.  Getting owned for four quarters by Mississippi State at Kyle Field was not part of the plan.  Basically he traded the Florida win for a Mississippi State drumming at home so he’s back on track for going 7-5.  Not good.

To win 9 games A&M has to win out and based on what we’ve seen that ain’t happening.  I think they’ll win 2 games against New Mexico and Ole Miss.  I wouldn’t say Ole Miss is a gimme but with Patterson being out it’s more possible.  That should still be a win.  He might win 1 out of Auburn and LSU but he’s not winning both.  No way.  So best case is 8-4 in which he’ll either not beat a West team at home yet again or close out the season with yet another loss to LSU.  I think that act will be old for many Aggie fans and the decision will be made to move on with a new coach.  Funny how things change in two weeks.

Who that new coach is I have no idea.  I like Matt Campbell at Iowa State a whole lot but his buyout is supposedly $8.5 million which means we’d start out paying $18.5 million in buyouts before even negotiating a contract with him.  The dude sure seems like a legit coach.  I also like Scott Frost and Justin Fuente.  My dream is still Chris Petersen but not sure that’s possible.  Either way I hope Woodard and whatever Aggie brain trust will be involved are starting to do their heavy due diligence.  I do mean heavy.  We can’t screw up this hire and to make it worse we’re going to have competition in Florida, Tennessee, and likely Arkansas.  We’re going to have to move swiftly and convincingly to get our guy.  Sumlin still has a chance to save himself but if I were a wagering person I’d say this season is going to be yet another signature Sumlin collapse down the stretch.  Welcome to November, Ags.

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