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Monday Morning Coffee Break

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Mississippi State (1-2 Overall, 0-1 SEC), after losing to Auburn 42-14 this past Thursday, head into a crucial Saturday morning SEC battle with LSU in Baton Rouge.

Although the 42-14 score doesn't indicate it, MSU actually did some things well during the Auburn game.


  • Defense: Coming into the game, Auburn was averaging 5.7 yards per carry. MSU allowed them 4.3. Auburn running back Carnell Williams was averaging 7.4 yards per carry but could only gain 3.8 yards per carry against the MSU defense. If you want to go even deeper, MSU's defense, until the 4th quarter, did even better. After three quarters, Auburn had gained 78 yards rushing on 26 carries, a 3.0 yards per carry average. Williams had 66 of those yards. The 4th quarter was a different story. Auburn, controlling the clock to the tune of 13 minutes and 5 seconds, tallied 166 of their 390 total yards during that quarter.
  • Defense: Auburn, coming into the game converting 51.5% of their third-down attempts, were held to 6 of 16, a 37.5%. Through the first three quarters, MSU held them to 3 of 11, or 27.3%.
  • Defense: MSU's defense, each time Auburn started a drive from inside their own 20, did not allow a single point. Six drives, zero points. The six Auburn drives that ended in touchdowns started at the Auburn 32, MSU 13, MSU 47, Auburn 33, MSU 17 and Auburn 50.
  • Defense MSU's defensive line had their best game of the season, accounting for 21 tackles (solo and assist combined), including a total of 4 behind the line of scrimmage. Junior Tommy Kelly was involved in three of them, including two against Carnell Williams. Junior backup defensive lineman Lennie Day once again had a good day, recording 5 assists. Three of his assisted tackles were against Carnell Williams. One was for a 5 yard loss while the other two netted 1 yard each. Lennie now has 20 tackles in 3 games.
  • Punting: MSU sophomore punter Jared Cook just seems to get better and better each game. During the Oregon game, he punted 8 times for a 42.8 average (net of 33.8). During the Jacksonville State game, he averaged 48.3 yards on 3 punts (net of 36.3). And during the Auburn game, he punted 5 times for a 48.0 average (net of 41.8).
  • Punt Return Coverage: After allowing their first two opponents an average of 13.4 yards per punt return, MSU's punt return coverage team allowed Auburn's Roderick Hood 7.8 yards per punt return. Hood came into the game averaging 13.9 yards per return.
  • Kickoffs: MSU junior kicker Brent Smith once again had a great day kicking off. Of his 3 kickoffs, two were downed inside the endzone while the third one was caught on the five-yard line and run back out to the 22-yard line. All three drives ended in Auburn punts.
  • Offense: Although the MSU running game never really got untracked, fullbacks Justin Griffith, a senior, Darnell Jones, a sophomore, ran the ball hard. Griffith, on 8 carries, rushed for 46 yards, a per carry average of 5.8 yards. Jones did even better, rushing for 14 yards on 2 carries, a 7.0 yard per carry average.
  • Offense: The young guns, freshmen Jerious Norwood and Nick Turner, continued to strut their stuff when given a chance. Norwood, on the most exciting offensive play of the game for MSU, showed the MSU fans why the governor of Mississippi, an Ole Miss alumnus, got involved in his recruitment. Norwood, after catching a short pass from Fant, was seemingly about to be tackled by an Auburn defender only to fake him off and then changed directions and run down to the Auburn 1-yard line before being tackled. MSU scored a couple of plays later to go up 7-0. Turner, more of a special teams player, returned 2 punts for 20 yards and 1 kickoff for 31 yards. He also caught 1 pass for 6 yards. Of MSU's total yards (offense and special teams), Norwood and Turner accounted for 88 of the 394 (22%).
  • Offense: Although he was under heavy pressure during a large portion of the game, Kevin Fant proved once again he is a tough, tough hombre. Playing 61 offensive plays, Kevin was sacked 5 times, hurried by the Auburn defense 3 times and who knows how many times hit at the end of a play. Even with that kind of pressure on him, he still completed 19 of 31 passes for 215 yards. As the young and inexperienced (2 juniors, 2 sophomores and 1 redshirt freshman) MSU offensive line improves, MSU fans will be in for a real treat and the rest of the SEC will be in for a real scare as Kevin Fant shows everybody how good he really can be.

    While the above things were the good, there were also some things that weren't so good.


  • Turnovers: Six turnovers in a game. MSU, in the two games that it has lost this season, has committed 10 turnovers while causing 1. You can't do that and expect to win. What makes the Auburn game turnovers so bad is three of them occurred when MSU was driving the ball. MSU had driven from their own 20 to the 50 twice and Auburn's 39 once. To the MSU defense's credit, they only allowed Auburn to score once after the MSU offense turned it over those three times. As for the other turnovers, one was on MSU's 13 yard line and one was on their 17. Both times Auburn scored. The final turnover was near the end of the game and Auburn elected to run the clock out in that case.
  • 4th Quarter Offense: After playing well during the first three quarters of the game, MSU's offense had the ball a total of 1 minute and 55 seconds in the 4th quarter. That means the MSU defense was on the field a total of 13 minutes and 5 seconds. That will wear any defense down. What made the lack of productivity by the offense even worse was the fact that they turned the ball over all three times that they had it during that quarter. The first turnover was caused by Auburn when they sacked Fant on the MSU 17-yard line. Auburn scored a touchdown to pull ahead 35-14. The second turnover was a fumble by MSU fullback Justin Griffith on the 50-yard line. Auburn once again scored a touchdown, this time making the score 42-14. The final turnover was an interception thrown by backup quarterback Kyle York with 2:20 left on the clock. Auburn elected to run the clock out after gaining 38 yards on 4 plays.
  • Pass-Protection: A strength the first two games, this area of the offense was a liability. After allowing 3 sacks and no official quarterback hurries the first two games, the MSU offensive line allowed 5 sacks and 3 quarterback hurries this game. Plus, there were numerous times Fant was knocked down at the end of a play. Fant is tough, but it will be difficult for him to last the season getting hit that many times during a game.
  • Penalties: OK, I know this is football and penalties are part of the game, but once in a while a penalty can be crucial enough that it has an adverse effect on a game. MSU committed 9 penalties during the game, two that turned out to be very crucial. The first one occurred in the 4th quarter with MSU trailing 21-14. Remember, Auburn did not score a single point against the MSU defense when they started a drive within their own 30. After Jared Cook punted the ball to the Auburn 21-yard line, the punt returner lost 2 yards back to the Auburn 19. However, the play had to be replayed due to a illegal motion penalty committed by MSU. Cook once again punted the ball with Auburn returning it to the 33, a difference of 14 yards. Auburn scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive. The second significant penalty occurred when Auburn attempted a fake field goal. MSU's defense alertly saw the play develop and tackled Auburn kicker Damon Duval 6 yards behind the line of scrimmage only to see the play replayed when MSU was called for offsides. Instead of taking the ball over on downs and keeping the score at 35-14, MSU gave Auburn a first down. Due to the penalty, Auburn got the ball at the MSU 5-yard line and score three plays later on 3rd and goal at the 1-yard line to make the score 42-14.

    Overall, with the exception of a couple of plays in the secondary, the Mississippi State defense played well, as did the MSU special teams. On offense, the receivers, quarterback and fullbacks played well. The tailbacks and offensive line need to improve their play if MSU wants to be competitive in the SEC West. Plus, and this is a huge plus, the team will have to stop committing so many turnovers.


    Want to know the stats for MSU and their upcoming opponent? Then, go to my front page, scroll down until you see the football section and click on Insider Stats. The link will take you to a page that has all kinds of stats about MSU and their next opponent.

    Insider Stats...


    If you don't see your event listed on the Gene's Page calendar, please email Mary Ann at the email address listed below.

    If you have a MSU related event coming up and you don't see it listed on the Gene's Page calendar, email Mary Ann your information and she will post it on the calendar. We purchased the calendar for your use, so please don't hesitate using it. Mary Ann's new email address is maryannswindoll@genespage.com.

    Well, that wraps up this week's edition of the Monday Morning Bulldog Coffee Break.

    Have a great Bulldog week!

    Gene Swindoll

    Archived Monday Morning Coffee Break Articles:
    September 16, 2002
    September 9, 2002
    September 2, 2002
    August 26, 2002
    August 12, 2002
    July 22, 2002
    July 8, 2002
    June 24, 2002
    June 17, 2002
    June 10, 2002
    June 3, 2002
    May 27, 2002
    May 20, 2002
    May 13, 2002
    May 6, 2002
    April 29, 2002
    April 22, 2002
    April 8, 2002
    April 1, 2002
    March 25, 2002
    March 4, 2002
    Feb. 25, 2002
    Feb. 18, 2002
    Feb. 11, 2002
    Feb. 4, 2002
    Jan. 28, 2002
    Jan. 21, 2002
    Jan. 14, 2002
    Jan. 7, 2002
    Dec. 31, 2001
    Dec. 24, 2001
    Dec. 17, 2001
    Dec. 10, 2001
    Dec. 3, 2001
    Nov. 26, 2001
    Nov. 19, 2001
    Nov. 12, 2001
    Nov. 7, 2001

    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 swindoll@genespage.com.

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