The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

MSU disappoints in Georgia; drops first game of the season

Noah Siano | The Reflector
MSU drops their first game of the season in disappointing fashion

ATHENS, GA—No. 11 University of Georgia (4-0, 1-0) outplayed the No. 17 Mississippi State University Bulldogs (3-1, 1-1) from its first offensive play to its last defensive stand.

The stage was set for a battle befitting national recognition. However, the excitement for the “Battle of the Bulldogs” and “East versus West” was quickly wiped away. MSU struggled to execute on both sides of the ball, and UGA was quick to capitalize, taking a 31-3 victory.

“We started slow. We didn’t execute real clean throughout the course of the game in all three phases,” Mullen said. “Obviously, on the road, when you play a team that is as talented as Georgia is, if you don’t execute you won’t win.”

Offense struggles early and often

MSU opened the game with a six-yard loss, foreshadowing the rest of the night for the MSU offense. The presumed strengths of the team leading into the game became weaknesses.

The offensive line, who dominated the first three games, was unable to win the battle at the line of scrimmage. Their inability to push the UGA defensive line off of the line of scrimmage upfront stalled the MSU running game.

Junior running back Aeris Williams finished the night with 24 yards on 11 attempts. Regardless of the play call, there seemed to be multiple UGA defenders in the backfield every time Williams ran the football.

Nick Gibson was the most successful running back with 52 yards, but he did not enter the game until the fourth quarter. By then, the outcome was already decided.

Overall, this inability to run the ball backed MSU into a corner, forcing quarterback Nick Fitzgerald to make plays with his arm.

Despite being a difference maker in last week’s game against LSU, Fitzgerald could not make the same impact in Athens. The most telling statistic of the night was his six yard-per-pass average. Fitzgerald was unable to connect with his receivers downfield, and the passes he completed to the flats were quickly negated by a swarming UGA defense.

The passes were often contested and the undersized receiving corps of MSU struggled to win the one-on-one battles against UGA’s defensive backs.

Defense was reactive, not proactive

Leading up to the game, analysts praised MSU defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s revamped defense. However, UGA’s plays kept the high-pressure defense on its heels.

UGA’s first play from scrimmage was a flea-flicker that caught the MSU secondary cheating towards the line of scrimmage. The play resulted in a 59-yard touchdown pass, putting MSU in a seven point hole out of the gate.

Senior UGA running back Nick Chubb and his offensive line easily exposed MSU’s front seven. Chubb often broke through arm tackles and consistently fell forward for extra yards, totaling 81 yards and two touchdowns.

UGA QB Jake Fromm completed nine passes for 201 yards. The defense was unable to put pressure on the true freshman QB and often found themselves a half step too slow in pursuit of the running backs and receivers.

After the game, defensive lineman Braxton Hoyett reiterated Mullen’s sentiments about execution.

“I feel like we played with unbelievable effort. Still, it is the execution part that we got to get better at,” Hoyett said. “I feel like once we come out to practice this week we will get it straightened out.”

Looking ahead to Auburn

MSU has a week to sort things out before traveling to Auburn, Alabama, next weekend. The No. 15 Auburn Tigers (3-1, 1-0) boast another talented and athletic defense similar to that of UGA.

However, Mullen is approaching the next week as an opportunity, rather than a challenge.

“The great thing about the SEC is you usually end up playing a better team the next week,” Mullen said. “It’s not always about the one game. It’s about multiple games, and that’s what I told the guys after the game.”

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MSU disappoints in Georgia; drops first game of the season