Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Joe Moorhead and Louisiana State Tigers head coach Ed Orgeron shake hands after the game Saturday at Davis Wade Stadium. Photo by: Matt Bush/USA TODAY Sports
October 21, 2019 2:37:51 PM
STARKVILLE -- Following an impassioned sermon at last Monday's press conference and a fiery speech postgame Saturday, Moorhead followed suit Monday afternoon.
Speaking with the media, an animated Moorhead again preached on the energy his Mississippi State squad brought in the early going against No. 2 LSU Saturday.
"I was really excited about our energy, our fight and our competitiveness throughout the game for four quarters and I thought the kids did a real good job with that," he said. "Coming off the Tennessee game that was something we stressed during the week -- for four quarters we were going to bow our back, bow our neck, stand toe to toe and fight and I thought we did that."
After combing through the game film with his staff Sunday, Moorhead pointed to a number of missed opportunities -- including freshman quarterback Garrett Shrader's second quarter interception that resulted in Racey McMath's 60-yard touchdown reception -- as spots MSU could have made Saturday's game tighter.
"Watching the film there were a ton of missed opportunities throughout that game in all three phases that would have made it a much closer game," he said. "And I'm not saying it would've been a win but, and it isn't coach speak, there were a bunch of plays that were left on the field."
That said, this weekend poses a new threat as the Bulldogs head on the road to Texas A&M. Having struggled on the road throughout the Moorhead era, the second-year coach said his team can't afford a lackadaisical start Saturday.
"I think we have to start fast," Moorhead said. "We can't come out there and afford to not be excited, not be energized, not be executing for a quarter and a half and next thing you know you're down a touchdown or two."
Shrader coming along schematically
While Shrader had two interceptions Saturday, Moorhead remains confident in his youthful signal caller -- particularly in his understanding of the playbook.
When making the switch from graduate transfer Tommy Stevens -- who played under Moorhead for two years at Penn State -- to Shrader, there was an inevitable shift in play calling as Shrader has only been learning the playbook since enrolling in January.
Despite that, Shrader is 62-of-106 for 828 yards and four touchdowns passing this year and has added another 440 yards and three touchdowns rushing on just 78 attempts.
Speaking with the media Monday, Moorhead directly addressed where he feels like Shrader is at with the playbook.
"He has a ton left to learn," Moorhead said. "Miles and miles and miles -- and that's a good thing because he's a true freshman.
"I think the good thing is he can beat you with his arms, he can beat you with his legs, he makes some plays design, some by improvisation," he continued. "But every single snap he takes in practice and during the course of the game is going to make him better and better and better for the next game, for the rest of the season and down the road."
Jones and Emerson playing major roles
With injuries beginning to rack up, the Bulldogs have increasingly leaned on their youth outside of Shrader.
With senior cornerback Mo Smirtherman sidelined for the rest of the season, freshmen Jarrian Jones and Martin Emerson figure to play more snaps than they already have this season.
Through seven games, Emerson and Jones have combined for 22 tackles, one interception and one fumble recovery while playing in relief of Smitherman, junior corner Tyler Williams and Cameron Dantzler.
"I don't know how realistic it was entering the season but both those guys had a plan in their mind that they were going to get on the field," Moorhead said. "I pulled them in sometime last week and told them 'Hey, you're not freshmen anymore. You guys got to play grown up and be ready to roll.'"
Beyond Smitherman, Moorhead offered an update on a handful of other injured Bulldogs heading into Texas A&M week.
Offensively, junior right guard Stewart Reese (lower body) junior right tackle Greg Eiland (upper body) and Shrader are all listed as day-to-day.
Defensively, Williams (lower body), senior nickel back Brian Cole (lower body) and senior defensive end Chauncey Rivers (mild lower body) are all day-to-day as well.
None of those aforementioned injuries are expected to be long term issues.
Ben Portnoy reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @bportnoy15.
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