Unfortunately for the maroon and white that was as good as it got, as a 43-14 loss to Auburn two weeks ago was followed by a shocking 9-7 loss to Division I-AA Maine at home on Saturday, to leave the Bulldogs reeling at 1-2.
The 2003 national champions have
looked like shells of their former selves in 2004, and are misfiring on all
cylinders after a 10-9 loss on the road to
Right now, the Bulldogs would just like to be close enough to score extra points, as an offensive attack that looked potent against the Green Wave has now all but dried up completely. Mississippi State raked up 310 yards of total offense against Tulane, but lost their way completely against the Tigers, totaling a mere 271 total yards – two thirds of which came through the air, as sophomore quarterback Omar Connor completed 16-of-26 for 113 yards, while backup Kyle York completed 8-of-10 for a further 77 yards and both touchdown passes, by which time the Bulldogs were already trailing 43-0 and playing against Auburn's backups.
The story got even worse against Maine, ranked No. 15 in the latest I-AA poll, as Mississippi State drew blood in the first quarter but were then shut out the rest of the way, and failed to even reach field goal range against the Black Bears in their final two drives as time ran out.
As a result,
The Bulldogs are faring better on the defensive side of the ball, ranked No. 6 in the SEC and No. 37 in the nation, but the old adage "defense wins championships" still hinges on the offense's ability to put up at least a few points on the board – and when you can score no more than a single touchdown at home against a I-AA school that had never beaten a I-A school before, there are serious problems that need to be looked at.
Through three games,
The problem, simply, is that they can't get the ball into the end zone.
But both of those ineptitudes pale
in comparison to the performance against
All of these failed opportunities indicate an impotent attack that no longer scares even a I-AA opponent.
Connor has completed 60 percent of his passes for 465 yards, but has only thrown two touchdown passes with one interception. Mississippi State's main offensive weapons appear to be running backs Jerious Norwood and Fred Reid, who have combined for 317 yards and two touchdowns – 74 yards and one score fewer than LSU's triple tailback combination of Justin Vincent, Alley Broussard, and Joseph Addai.
Ineptitude has been a theme on the Mississippi State sidelines for some time now, and Croom has to break an ingrained culture of losing in Starkville if he hopes to turn the Bulldogs around and set them back on a path to respectability.
The problem is, Mississippi State plays in the Southeastern Conference, where the amount of time a team has to catch it's breath between games is approximately the amount of time between the full-time whistle on a Saturday night, and the unlocking of the weight room doors on a Monday morning.
After opening the 2004 season with three straight road games – and losing two – the Bulldogs now head on the road to play an LSU team still smarting from a one-point loss to Auburn, and then to Nashville, Tenn., to play a Vanderbilt team that led Ole Miss for minutes in Oxford, Miss., before losing in overtime.
The Tigers looked plain awful in
all facets of the game in
On paper, LSU should be
heavily-favored to beat a
In addition to the missed 32-yard
field goal against
If the Bulldogs hope to be
competitive against LSU, they will have to find character from somewhere – and
they would do well to look in a different location than the one they chose to
use after getting blown out by
As for LSU, for the second time in
four weeks the Tigers are gifted a soft opponent to try and iron out the kinks
with, and in theory should use
But after Georgia was taken to the wire by Marshall, Ole Miss was taken to the wire by Vanderbilt, and the Bulldogs lost to an average school from a lower division, it is apparent that this is a season in which absolutely anything can happen, and no win is guaranteed.
That, after all, is why they play the game, isn't it?