Or some of the same things, at least. Because Lee didn't enjoy breaking down Mississippi State's 34-3 loss at Tennessee any more than he liked it at the time in Knoxville. Nothing much changed upon this further review, either, as after going six full games and three more quarters into his MSU career Lee suffered his first college interception. Then another, and another, the latter two for Volunteer touchdowns.
"Just terrible decisions, bad throws, awful throws," Lee summarized. "Bad decisions times-ten, that's the biggest thing I saw."
Coordinator and quarterback coach Woody McCorvey agreed with Lee, though in more technical terms about what went wrong in the second half in general and on those fourth-quarter picks in particular. "Footwork, throwing the ball late, got out of rhythm," McCorvey said. "One ball was high. The other two, one was tipped and the other was man-coverage and Jamayel Smith was breaking away and he should have thrown the ball outside. No excuse, it's something that I've got to get corrected. I'm his coach and I've got to get it done."
Coach and quarterback alike could justifiably use injury as an explanation, if not excuse. Deep into the game's first series, a long Dog drive directed by Lee, he was sacked on second down and strained the left knee. Lee returned two turns later and played into the final period with a brace, claiming afterwards it had no effect on his throwing or running. He wouldn't fall back on that Monday, either.
"No, I don't think the knee had anything to do with it. I just tried to put balls in there where I shouldn't have. All year we haven't forced balls and I tried to do that Saturday night, and it hurt us."
It hurt all the more because for the first period and into the second Mississippi State moved the ball on Tennessee, with only a field goal—and another missed kick—to show for it. Game review proved that on possessions in each pre-half period there were excellent openings to score big-pass touchdowns. In the first quarter Lee simply overthrew an open Brandon McRae running the post-pattern with two steps on his defender. Even more frustrating was a second-quarter where Lee couldn't quite get the ball to Smith on the left side of the end zone…while on the other side Aubrey Bell was all alone and waving for attention.
No other such opportunities arose, especially after Tennessee scored to open the second half for a 13-3 lead and simply came after Lee. He ended up sacked five times in all and harried many more.
"I thought we had a good gameplan going at them early," McCorvey said. "And we had some things open and just didn't hit them. If we hit something like that early, it gives us a chance. Just like in the Vanderbilt game, we threw that touchdown to Brandon Henderson and you could see the whole (MS) sideline, they were into it. The other night that was what we were hoping, we could hit something like that and get everybody into it and get the enthusiasm up to give us a chance. But we didn't do it."
Asked the difference from first to second half, Lee simply pointed to better—if incomplete—execution. And, "We didn't turn the ball over, obviously. We made them work and if we didn't have it we punted it away. The second half came along and rather than going three-and-out…when you give them opportunities to score on touchdowns you throw it's not good."
Monday, Lee seemed little worse for both the physical and emotional wear he took at Tennessee, as Mississippi State began preparations for this weekend's home game with Middle Tennessee State. McCorvey said the quarterback seemed just a bit hampered initially today. "Probably just from the stiffness. But as practice kept going and going it seemed like he'll be alright." Nor did the coach make any point of Lee being in a brace.
"Nope, we didn't mention it, trying to keep it out of their head. I normally let them tell me, I want to see what they can do instead of me forcing the issue. Then if I see a difference I make sure to cut back on the reps." There was no need for that Monday, a good sign related to Lee's week of work in store. Not that he likes having the left knee braced any better.
"It felt kind of weird. I've never had a knee injury. I had the brace on today and went and practiced and it felt well. So hopefully it will continue to get better and I'll be ready to go 100% Saturday. I'm just trying to get used to the feel for it, I didn't want to go too hard because I didn't know what it would do and wouldn't do. But today it felt well."