Mississippi State report card: Defense dominates against Troy
With two losses already this year, the margin of error is extremely thin for the Bulldogs. Mississippi State had to win and dominate against Troy, which the Bulldogs were able to do.
The following are the grades Mississippi State deserves based on their performance.
Quarterback Dak Prescott only played three series because of a stomach virus, but that’s really all the Bulldogs needed him for on Saturday. He threw a touchdown pass on the first drive to give Mississippi State a lead in the first minute of the game, and the Bulldogs never looked back. Behind backup quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State continued to move the ball and finished with its second-highest point total of the season. Fitzgerald had two touchdown passes and no interceptions. The one glaring negative for this offense is still the running game. The Bulldogs averaged just 3.8 yards per rush on Saturday.
The Mississippi State defense was dominant in this one. In the first half alone, the Bulldogs had nine tackles for a loss, three sacks, two quarterback hurries, one forced fumble, a fumble recovery for a touchdown and allowed no points. It got a bit sloppy in the second half, but the game was already in hand. Even with 17 points in the second half, Troy only averaged 2.4 yards per rush and 3.6 yards per pass in the game.
Special Teams: A
The Bulldogs’ special teams were outstanding Saturday. Returner Fred Ross set the tone with his 77-yard punt return for a touchdown in the first quarter. That put Mississippi State ahead early 21-0. Punter Logan Cooke averaged 48.6 yards per punt, which included a booming 65-yarder, and kicker Westin Graves made his only field goal attempt from 42 yards.
Dan Mullen wanted his team to play physical football on Saturday, and they did just that. The defense let up a bit in the second half, but overall, they were tremendous. Mullen also managed the Prescott stomach virus situation very well. Prescott played enough to stay in rhythm for next week while Fitzgerald received plenty of reps to help further his development. With a sizable lead, Mullen subbed in a lot of his younger players to provide them with some in-game experience.
Mississippi State was expected to win this game in blowout fashion, and it did while looking good along the way. The result should build confidence among Bulldogs starters moving forward in the SEC schedule and for the younger players who received some serious playing time on Saturday.
In less than one quarter of play, Mississippi State has touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams.
— Chuck Dunlap (@SEC_Chuck) October 10, 2015