My take on Mississipi State's 2018 seasonBy BRYAN DAVIS PUBLISHER,
Even after a season where Mississippi State fans had to endure three disappointing – and one expected – Southeastern Conference losses, the Bulldogs were still the crown jewel of the state in terms of on-field success.
Ole Miss, as you well know, faced its second of two seasons banned from any postseason games, and even so, did not perform well during 2018.
State, on the other hand, won eight games during Head Coach Joe Moorhead’s inaugural season.
Long before the Bulldogs coughed up a loss to unranked Iowa on New Year’s Day, this team, along with its head coach, had many fans scratching their heads.
Three regular season SEC games against Kentucky, Florida and LSU were considered winnable by most pundits.
State lost all three contests.
With two rushers capable of 1,000-yard seasons in the backfield, along with one of the best running quarterbacks in SEC history, the Bulldogs scored a grand total of 16 points in those three losses combined.
At the start of SEC play this fall, I considered Mississippi State as the lone conference team that had a shot at beating undefeated Alabama. It turns out, there’s only one team remaining that has that shot, but I thought that would be the game of the year.
That’s all based on the defense and offense that Moorhead inherited from Dan Mullen, who by the way, enjoyed a sweet New Year’s Eve victory over Michigan.
When coaches depart programs, they rarely leave behind the caliber of talent Mississippi State had going into the 2018 season.
State has a number of potential first-round picks on offense and defense.
All Moorhead had to do was come in and let the players play.
Instead, State fans had to endure multiple outings where Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald threw, without much success, downfield, instead of focusing on his running game.
For the most part, the defense lived up to expectations, but poor decision making and countless blown plays made it difficult for the offense to ever really get into a groove.
It was no surprise to me, when faced with having to drive the field with less than two minutes to play, that Fitzgerald and Moorhead couldn’t close out the win over the Hawkeyes.
It was obvious the two offensive leaders, one on the field and the other on the sideline, were out of sync during the final 120 seconds of the game.
It was apparent Fitzgerald was ill-prepared to run the two-minute drill.
This is a situation that requires a hurry-up mentality. The QB must complete passes to the sideline so that his receivers can get out of bounds and stop the clock (since State had no timeouts left heading into the final drive).
It’s a situation that requires mastery from both the coach and the quarterback, and Moorhead and Fitzgerald fell flat.
But that’s what the tandem did for most of the season.
Sure, the Bulldogs had flashes of pure brilliance, and Fitzgerald deserves his due when it comes to recognizing his ability to scramble, but when it came to going head-to-head with SEC defenses and coaches, this team fell short of so many expectations.
Moorhead certainly has the ability to build a dynasty in Starkville, but in 2018, he didn’t have to do much building. He just needed to maintain what was already there, and he did not.
Hopefully, the in-game relationship he forms with next year’s starting QB will be better.
Even through all of the great years Mullen gave State fans, the Bulldogs have yet to rise to elite status within their own conference.
They had that opportunity this year, and it didn’t happen.
But as they say, maybe next year.