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Post-game at Reliant Stadium: No. 13 Oklahoma State 21, MSU 3 - Where do we go from here?




Matt Stevens


HOUSTON - What did we learn?  




- A zone-read option running offense, not the high-powered passing attack they had been preparing for months for, is what beat the Mississippi State University defense and was what new Bulldogs defensive coordinator Geoff Collins was unable to adjust to for the final three quarters of No. 13 Oklahoma State University's 21-3 victory Saturday at Reliant Stadium.  




- Whether it was offensively in the play calling department or defensively to stop the zone-read quarterback runs, MSU's inability to adjust led to a disappointing start to the Bulldogs' 2013 season. Saturday's game marked just the third game under Mullen where MSU (0-1) failed to score a touchdown. For months MSU's defensive staff talked about being able to handle Oklahoma State's pass happy tempo offense and after Cowboys quarterback J.W. Walsh entered the game, those concepts simply didn't factor anymore. The sophomore utilized a read-option running attack, a completely different scheme from OSU's typical air strike philosophy, for 126 rushing yards on just 13 carries and a touchdown. Walsh finished the game with 260 total yards (135 passing, 125 rushing) after coming here with 1 minute and 12 seconds left in the first quarter for a ineffective Clint Chelf. After the victory, Gundy was immediately emphatic about who his quarterback was going forward to what the Cowboys hope is a possible Bowl Championship Series berth.  




- MSU coach Dan Mullen is now 2-17 all-time at MSU against nationally ranked opponents as the Bulldogs continue to stumble with that "next step" the Bulldogs coach preaches about the program taking in the competitive Southeastern Conference.  




- After completely dominating the first quarter of play, MSU was out gained by 200 yards and was 1 of 12 on third downs. The Bulldogs controlled time of possession for over 11 minutes of the first quarter and never had a drive last more than six plays till there was 5 minutes and 43 seconds left in the game. 




- The Cowboys defense, which has been a middle of the pack unit in the Big 12 Conference, held Mississippi State to its lowest point total since a 45-0 blowout in the 2008 Egg Bowl rivalry game at the University of Mississippi. Saturday's win, which was Oklahoma State's 13th in their last 14 non-conference games, marked the first time they held a BCS opponent to three or fewer points since a 12-0 win over rival University of Oklahoma on Nov. 11, 1995. 




- With all the talk of the dominance of the SEC in college football, Oklahoma State left Reliant Stadium with a 9-1 record in its 10 games against current league members. 




- The dooms day scenario for Mississippi State University football came true with 2 minutes and 50 seconds left in the third quarter. The Bulldogs were down 14-3 to a Top 15 ranked opponent and their star, fifth-year senior quarterback Tyler Russell was laying face down, motionless on the Reliant Stadium turf. Suddenly MSU's contingent of the announced 35,874 in attendance Saturday were silent while watching their season possibly collapse just 42 minutes into their 2013 season. On a first-down scramble by Russell, the Bulldogs quarterback was dragged down by Oklahoma State University defensive tackle James Castleman while Cowboys sophomore linebacker Ryan Simmons finished the play. The replays shown on the stadium jumbotron and on the television broadcast appear to show inadverent contact between Simmons' leg and Russell head. Minutes later, Russell was being led off the field by the MSU training staff. After the game, Mullen would only confirm Russell suffered a injury to the head and his status would be reevaluated in the next few days.  




- Russell's backup option Dak Prescott was ineffective before and after Russell's injury Saturday as the sophomore struggled to gain any momentum with his legs or arm. In the passing game, Prescott failed to move the offense and finished just 7 of 17 for 89 yards and a interception. MSU offensive coordinator Les Koenning said he felt the sophomore backup "was ready to play" but wouldn't comment on if he'd get more snaps of preparation this coming week in practice. 




- The busiest person on the Mississippi State University sideline Saturday was the head trainer Justin Gremillion. MSU lost four starters to injury in its 21-3 loss to Oklahoma State University in the 2013 Texas Kickoff Classic. The Bulldogs were forced to play most of the game without junior safety Jay Hughes after he was help off the field in the first quarter with what MSU officials later confirmed was a achilles injury. Hughes was comforted by MSU coach Dan Mullen, his father and MSU secondary coach Tony Hughes and several teammates while he laid on the training table.  


Junior cornerback Jamerson Love, who is taking one of the starter spots left by 2012 NFL second round draft picks Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay, suffered a severe ankle injury. The former star at Aberdeen High School suffered the injury in the second quarter and was ruled out of the game at halftime. Love's replacement was former West Point star and East Mississippi Community College transfer Justin Cox. Without being able to turn to suspended cornerback Will Redmond, the Bulldogs defensive backfield depth got limited quickly against the high-powered Oklahoma State four-wide attack. MSU also suffered a key offensive line injury late in the fourth quarter as junior right guard Justin Malone was help off the field after being unable to move his left leg. The Bulldogs immediately turned to junior Ben Beckwith as Tobias Smith did not dress Saturday despite being listed on the team's active travel roster. 


Before the game, MSU announced tight end Rufus Warren was unable to make the trip to Houston due to a injury injury and the concussion problems for junior middle linebacker Ferlando Bohanna forced him to miss the contest as well.  




- Four true freshmen made their collegiate debut Saturday for Mississippi State: defensive back Kivon Coman, defensive tackle Chris Jones along with wide receivers Fred Ross and De'Runnya Wilson. 




What we heard? 




Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen: 




"I give Oklahoma State a lot of credit. They found a way, dealt with some adversity early on, found a way to keep fighting, found a way to score some points and win the game. There are a lot of positives for us to take out of this game. I'm happy with how our guys played. We made a lot of first game mistakes that you see. I don't know about them, but I know with us, we made a lot of the first game mistakes that come early in the season. It's what happens when you're in these big of games, the margin for error is very, very small. And those mistakes can come back and hurt you. We had some great opportunities, especially in that first half, to score some more points and we didn't take advantage of it." 




"Like we told our guys, the chances of us going undefeated this year were pretty slim. I think the chances for most teams to go undefeated are pretty slim. It's how you react to that, and how you learn from mistakes and things you can do to correct it. For us, every goal that we have is still pretty much in place, to have a chance to compete for an SEC Championship. There are a lot of things we need to correct. A lot of corrections to make. When you get in big games, this is going to be very similar to a conference game for us. With a lot of players now, they get to see it on film, they get to see how small that margin for error is." 




"I think Tyler overall is going to be ok. He was responsive. Obviously, anytime you have that type of head/neck issues, you're going to be very, very cautious. We'll get more evaluation as we move forward."  




Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy: 




"We weren't very good in the first two obviously and then when J.W. came in he kind of gave us a spark and we certainly could make an adjustment at that time so we just continued to move forward from that point."  




"There hadn't been many games at Ok St over the last five or six years or maybe longer than that where the defense is the story. It's a team game, but the defense certainly kept us in and allowed the offense to get going in the third and fourth quarter."  




"The running game that was added to our offense by Coach UR played to his favor today because Miss St struggled with defending it and obviously we could see that. We were getting chunks and we had a penalty and we were still getting chunks and we were getting in the open field running the ball. That part played in his favor, similar like when we played washington state a few years ago when we were in the diamond and they hadn't seen it, and we went up and down the field the first couple of quarters. This was similar to that. First game of the year, an unorthodox blocking scheme and set, and in my opinion it was obvious that they struggled with it and that we needed to keep running it."  






Oklahoma State quarterback J.W. Walsh 




"We kind of had an idea of when they lined up in formation and we saw it and just exploited it over and over again. They didn't really adjust to it, so we just kept exploiting it." 




"To see our run game be so successful is nice to see early on in the season, especially against a big physical defense like that. You've got to give credit to them because, at the beginning of the game, they were downhill and they were coming at us. To be able to still run for however many yards we ran for was exciting to see and I think we're going to build on that and be able to expand. Once we started rolling and getting our drives going and hitting our tempo stuff, we saw them kind of grind down a little bit. We were just ready to keep going and going. I think that's something that we've always had to our advantage because we're such a fast offense. It was something that we saw we could take advantage of."  






Mississippi State defensive coordinator Geoff Collins 




"We made an adjustment at halftime and they changed a bit and by the fourth quarter we were stoning them. Just one of those things where they brought a unique thing to the field.  




What's next? 




Alcorn State University (1-0) 




The Bulldogs will open its home slate with FCS opponent Alcorn State Saturday (2:30 p.m., CSS) and could be without senior starting quarterback Tyler Russell. Arnold Walker scored three touchdowns as Alcorn State dominated Edward Waters 63-12 this week. 


Walker's three scores came on just 75 yards rushing, but three other Braves rushed for at least 50 yards as ground attack piled up 280 yards. The contest got away from Edward Waters early and Alcorn State won back-to-back home openers for the first time since 2003-2004. Alcorn's defense shut down Edward Waters, recovering three fumbles and tallying two interceptions. MSU is 3-0 all-time against the Southwest Athletic Conference and 4-0 all-time under Dan Mullen against FCS opponents.  




All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.



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