What’s next for Mississippi State after lopsided defeat against No. 14 LSU?

Published: Sep. 16, 2023 at 10:57 PM CDT
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STARKVILLE, Miss. (WLBT) - Conference play officially arrived for the Mississippi State Bulldogs and on Saturday, it hit them like a freight train.

The number fourteen-ranked LSU Tigers took a visit to Stark Vegas town, and dominated the game from start to finish.

It’s something that head coach Zach Arnett said cannot be the standard for his team moving forward after suffering his first defeat as the leader of the program.

“I’ve done a very poor job in my evaluation of where we’re at as a football team and we have to decide how we want to respond to this,” Coach Arnett said, sending an honest message on behalf of the Bulldogs.

Stagnant offense

The offense was unable to get anything going in the first half and really all season. The new hire of offensive coordinator Kevin Barbay is still working through its kinks.

Quarterback and Brandon native Will Rogers was forced out of the pocket constantly, leading to multiple sacks and several missed throws. Rogers completed just 11 out of 28 passes for just 108 yards, a career low.

“He wasn’t getting a lot of help in protection. We didn’t hold up to their pass rush well,” Arnett said. “Early on, [there] were too many guys getting through... we’ll have to watch the tape to see exactly what those issues are. It’s not fun playing quarterback when you have the pocket collapsing on you... maybe that affected him a little bit.”

“Throws that are there, you gotta be able to make them and obviously when they play tight coverage and get a pass rush, you gotta be able to hold up in the pass rush,” he continued.

As a result, State was forced to punt on their first five drives of the game. Their only points of the first half came from a Tulu Griffin touchdown run with 50 seconds left.

Disappointing day for the usually dominant defense

As for the defense, well they gave up scores on LSU’s first three possessions. That hasn’t happened all season for the Bulldogs.

An incredible performance by Tigers wide receiver Malik Nabers, who burned the Bulldogs’ secondary for 239 yards and two touchdowns, was a large factor in the lopsided affair.

“We obviously had a poor plan,” Coach Arnett said when asked about Nabers’ performance.

QB Jayden Daniels had quite the opposite day from Rogers as well, completing all but four of his passes for 361 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for sixty-four yards.

LSU racked up over 500 yards of offense en route to a 41-14 win over Mississippi State.

What’s next?

The Bulldogs, have a great chance to bounce back against South Carolina next Saturday night at 6:30 p.m. for their second SEC matchup.

Getting the Bulldogs juiced up won’t be a problem, with the veteran leadership of linebackers Jett Johnson and Nathanial Watson - along with Rogers - having the experience and leadership qualities to right the ship.

However, Coach Arnett says the game plan has to be better.

“We’re gonna get back to work and get ready to go play in a heck of an environment next week versus a really good football team, and I expect to have a team who shows up, fired up, excited to play, and hopefully executes a lot better than we did today. We have to give them a lot better plan next week, too.

One thing is certain, the Bulldogs can’t treat this defeat as an end-all-be-all result to an early 2023 season.

“We’re either going to do the hard things and the necessary things to get better, or we’re not, and losing like this becomes commonplace,” Arnett said. “We have decisions to make as coaches, as players, and everyone in the program.

The contest between MSU and South Carolina will be streamed on SEC Network and the ESPN app.

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