Slimantics: No offense, but Bulldogs have no offense


Slim Smith





It was about halfway through his post-game press conference Saturday night when Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead faced a question that seemed to stop him in his tracks.


"Do you ever remember going though a stretch like this offensively where it's been this inept?" a reporter asked.



"Hmmm," Moorhead pausing as if he were reviewing his 20 years as a coach.


"No," he said.


For the second week in a row, the Mississippi State football team's offense flopped around like a catfish on a hot sidewalk. This time, in front of a packed Davis Wade Stadium and a national audience on ESPN, No. 23 MSU lost to Florida 13-6 in a game that saw it gain only 202 yards and fail to score a touchdown.


Last week, it was easy to shrug off a 28-7 loss to Kentucky as a case where MSU lost its composure and focus. It figured to be something of a fluke, and Bulldog fans were certain the offense would redeem itself when the Gators came to town.


The circumstances surrounding the game made it something Bulldogs fans have anticipated since last December, when coach Dan Mullen left MSU to take the job at Florida.


What better way to get the bad tastes of their mouths than to beat their old coach.


Moorhead, who had resurrected Penn State's offense almost the moment he arrived as its offensive coordinator, was heralded as a home run hire. If anything, the Bulldogs would be even more explosive than the teams Mullen had fielded at MSU.


Yet with much of the same lineup that averaged 32 points and 418 yards per game last season, the Bulldogs are averaging 200 yards and 6.5 points in two SEC games. If Kentucky and Florida can do that to MSU, you don't want to consider what the future holds.


Auburn is next, and the Tigers are better on defense than anything MSU has faced.


Some honeymoons end quicker than others. If this was, indeed, a marriage, Moorhead would probably already be sleeping on the sofa.


In each of the last two games, MSU's offense was at least functional in the first half. Against Kentucky, MSU scored on a long touchdown drive in the first quarter, but it hardly had a pulse after that.


It was even worse against the Gators. The Bulldogs managed field goals of 34 and 39 yards in the first half, both after long, grind-it-out drives. The big-play offense on which Moorhead built his reputation never materialized. MSU's longest play covered just 17 yards.


The second half was beyond bad. MSU managed 43 yards on 27 plays. The Bulldogs couldn't run (just 104 net yards) and couldn't keep quarterback Nick Fitzgerald perpendicular -- he was sacked six times. Birthday pinatas don't get knocked around more than Fitzgerald did Saturday night.


The one real opportunity where the Bulldogs called the right play at the right time, a certain touchdown pass to Osirus Mitchell bounced inexplicably off the receiver's hands. At the time, a catch would have put the Bulldogs up 13-3 in the third quarter.


Instead, it seemed to suck the life out of the Bulldogs' offense. MSU never got a whiff of the end zone after that.


In fact, there were times in the fourth quarter when converting a third down seemed almost impossible. MSU was 2-for-12 on third down. It also averaged a meager 3.2 yards per run play and 3.8 yards per pass.


It was like a Sylvester Croom flashback.


Moorhead kept a stiff upper lip in the face of it all, accepting responsibility for his team's awful offense and vowing to go back to work to find solutions, which could include some changes in personnel, he said.


The Bulldogs -- and Moorhead -- seemed shell-shocked after of the game.


Nobody saw this coming.


If there is a solution, the Bulldogs better find it awfully quick.



Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]



Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]


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