"One positive was we played without watching the scoreboard. We didn't let it worry us that we were down. I think we played through four quarters. We didn't always play good, but we played through four quarters. That gives you a chance to win. I thought we played hard and we made plays. We've got to make more. If we have to score 43 to win, then that's what we have to do. That's how our kids have to look at it. There's always games where one side has to pick up the other side up. That's football.
"The negatives: We stopped ourselves six times. That means, for example, we had three turnovers. We also had three penalties that were completely under our control that put us in down and distance situations that were hard to make. What we call foolish penalties; illegal procedure, a couple of illegal formations. You have to have zero of those. Once in a while you will get a holding penalty or a clip on an extra effort play, but we didn't have any of those. That doesn't mean we didn't have extra effort, just that we didn't have any of those kind of penalties. The penalties and turnovers were all things that we can completely control ourselves."
This may seem like it is odd for me to say this, but compared to MSU teams of the past, 8 total penalties is a small amount to me.
"We didn't have that many that were truly non-discipline penalties, but we had penalties that we should have controlled. A couple of times we had a guy who thought he was on the line of scrimmage but he wasn't and they called him for a penalty."
Talk about how you felt Kevin Fant did during the game.
"He performed really well. There's areas of improvement, but for the first game in a new offense, I thought he played outstanding. The things I look at that he did that some kids won't do; when he got caught after something broke down and he couldn't run to make yardage, he threw the ball away. He threw it away knowing that it was going to be a good situation for us. He did some good things that, while a lot of times people don't even notice that much, will win you football games down the road. He also had a chance to make some plays because he had some guys open and he made them. He also threw the ball really well in how he placed the football. A couple of the throws, like the fade in the endzone, were perfect throws. The touchdown in the back of the endzone was a great throw because he put it where only the receiver could get it. That was a great throw because there was only one guy who could get it. It was either incomplete or a touchdown. He didn't give the defender a chance.
"As for the under throw to Nick Turner when Nick was going deep, Kevin had to slide out a little bit and didn't get his feet set. Because of that, he didn't get enough on the football. That wasn't a play that was totally under his control because he was getting a little bit of pressure and had to get away from it."
One of the biggest question marks was the number of drop balls by receivers last season. How do you think the receivers, as a group, did during the game?
"They did better. We had four drops and that was really being critical. There were some throws a lot of people wouldn't call drops, but how we grade it is if you are playing in the SEC and that ball gets around your hands, then you have to make the play. That's what being a great receiver in the SEC is."
It sounds like you are almost demanding perfection.
"I think even though you are demanding perfection, you are at least setting the standard where the receivers know they are expected to make plays when the ball is around them. They have to find a way to go up and get the ball. If you don't set that standard, then they are never going to look at it as they could have made that play."
During practices you used the tight ends a lot. Was it just not dictated during the game to throw to the tight ends that much?
"We didn't have tight ends that were ready to play in the opener. We'll be alright. We can still get better during the season.
"We felt like going in that our running backs gave us a better chance of winning the game. It's not a knock on the tight ends. It's just that we played the ones that we though were ready to play. We didn't use the other formations because we didn't think we were ready to use them."
How much of your offense did we see during the first game? If you want to, you can say it in a percentage.
"Maybe 75%. It takes time to use all of it because everybody is learning everything."
Do you feel your guys have picked up your offense or did you have to simplify it after watching the game like Coach Cooper has done?
"They picked it up but what we did was simplify it a little bit going into the game. We didn't simplify it so much that we didn't give ourselves a chance to win but we did simplify it enough in the last week of practice to where we felt like we would cut down on the missed assignments. And we had a low number of missed assignments during the game."
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.