Morrow Raises His Passing Game Profile

It’s easy enough for players and coaches to claim they prepare for any opportunity. But by golly, Joe Morrow proved it is true at Mississippi State in one unusual Saturday situation.

The circumstances? A 3rd-and-3 for Mississippi State’s offense at the UAB 15-yard line, with the Bulldogs leading 40-20 midway of the third period. Game under control but not quite won, in other words, and with the Blazers swinging for the fences each series and occasionally connecting another touchdown would be useful.

As there were two downs to work with (considering the still-shaky state of State placekicking) a downfield shot wasn’t necessary. Fortunately UAB handed MSU and Morrow a real gift by jumping the snap…and the Bulldog wideout took off for the end zone. Because, he said, “We practice that. When they jump offsides, just take off.”

And in this case Morrow had even more incentive going down the right sideline. “I kind of knew when he jumped that the ball was coming to me, because Dak always throws it in practice. So you just have to be ready for that moment.” He was, as QB Dak Prescott’s throw arrived for a touchdown.

The first score of Morrow’s junior season, at that, but something pretty common from the Bulldog offense here in the early season. In two games Mississippi State has scored nine passing touchdowns, compared to just three via handoffs. One needn’t be a longtime fan to understand this goes against the program grain, and Coach Dan Mullen’s preference for pounding the ground productively.

But hey, if it works why stop a good thing? If Morrow and cohorts have their way the air attack will continue taking first turns, too.

“We’ve been working since end of last season trying to be the best receiving group in the country. And six different receivers have caught a touchdown this season already. Just staying that, it shows how hard we’ve been working. And we’re going to continue to work that hard.”

2014 is a sort of season State receivers have been working towards for years. Mullen, too, as from the first day he checked the roster he noted lack of total downfield targets. The first spring showed further lack of play-makers. Now look what six signing classes have developed; a pass-catching corps deep and gifted and versatile. It is worth noting that the six touchdown-scorers Morrow mentioned are all wide or tight ends, with running backs waiting their own chances. Or as 2013 showed with successful gadget pass plays, even quarterbacks.

So as Morrow says, the best competition up to now has been in practices. Everyone wants a chance to impress position coaches and coordinator and move up in the game day pecking order. As encouraging as the number of Dog receivers already involved, it is equally interesting who has yet to score from the corps.

Two games in and Jameon Lewis has just four catches for 31 yards and no touchdowns. For a fellow who matched the second-best season ever at State with 64 receptions, and a MVP performance in the Liberty Bowl to boot, this seems nigh-incredible.

Not to Morrow. His senior teammate will show up again when needed, and in fact the production of other wideouts could well put Lewis in even more favorable matchups. Or, maybe, he’ll keep drawing extra attention and leave openings for everyone else. Either way these Bulldogs want to be ready.

And, open.

“It all depends on the play-calling and depends on the schemes of the defense,” said Morrow. “That’s usually what determines who is going to get the ball. So we’re just playing our part, doing our job and hopefully the ball keeps coming to us.”

But again it has to be proven in practice, where Morrow says everyone brings an extra edge compared to most seasons-past. “It’s just crazy. At practice, it’s hard to explain.”

“You have to run every route like you’re getting the ball. Because you never know. It just depends on the scheme of the offense, but if you can beat your man every play usually the ball is coming to you every play.”

It hasn’t been every play yet for Morrow, but four catches for 71 yards rank him second on the roster at this early point behind soph De’Runnya Wilson. And he’s on a pace to top his 2013 total of 18 catches with 211 yards and a touchdown, at Texas A&M for his first as a Bulldog.

A second offers that much more encouragement, as does getting balls thrown his way each game so far. “It helps a lot. It helps build confidence with myself and the quarterback. So hopefully I can keep that streak going and it’s going to be a great season.”

If Morrow can keep find himself in similar settings to last Saturday it could be great. By the way, even if the thrown flag meant State had nothing to lose on that pass, UAB’s defender didn’t let Morrow loose. “He stayed with the play, that’s a good job by him. But it was who wanted the ball more.” That being Morrow, who wants to make more and better catches when given the chance.

“We always emphasize, when your number is called make the play. You don’t know what play it is, you don’t know when it’s going to be. Just be ready for it. That’s just how it’s going to be.”


Gene's Page Top Stories