5 Key Takeaways: Mississippi State

Commodore fans finally had an entertaining game that was up for grabs in the fourth quarter for the first time since the season opener at Texas A&M.  And while like most Commodore fans I’m not big into “moral victories” there were at least some real positives we could take away from this one:

Dominating Every Stat but the Most Important

If you just looked at the box score you would assume Vandy won the game easily, and frankly, they should have.  The Dores crushed the Bulldogs in total yards 478 to 204.  Vandy had 30 first downs to 14 for Mississippi State.  A team that rushes for 142 yards losing to a team that finished with an absurdly pathetic -22 yards seems insane, but here we are.  So, what happened…? 

Turnovers the Difference

Turnovers happened.  Once again, the freshman giveth and he taketh away.  Give credit to Seals for his career high 336 yards, becoming the first freshman QB since Jay Cutler to throw back to back 300-yard games, but his four turnovers were killers.  Red zone woes continue as he threw another pick in the endzone after a fantastic drive that culminated in a first and goal at the 1-yard line.  A late fumble in the fourth quarter with Vandy trying to rally was a backbreaker.  Seals finished with three interceptions and a fumble, while receiver Abdur-Rahman also had a fumble.  On the other side, Mississippi State also had a true freshman QB, Will Rogers.  Despite making his first career start, his team had a turnover free game. 

Henry-Brooks Breakout Game

It has been running back by committee for the Commodores so far this season.  Most assumed Ja’Veon Marlow might be the back who would emerge from the pack, but Henry-Brooks took a huge step forward in this game accounting for an impressive 212 total yards.  It was the first 100-yard rushing game in his young career with 115 yards on 20 carries (5.8 yards per carry).  However, where Henry-Brooks really distinguishes himself is in the passing game.  While Marlow has been virtually non-existent in receptions, including a terrible drop against LSU, Henry-Brooks has shown a knack for making catches out of the backfield.  He finished with a team-high 11 receptions for 97 yards (second only to Cam Johnson’s 114).  While much of the season is focused on Seals’ development, it will also be important to develop weapons around him. 

Defense finally dominated

Granted, Mississippi State’s offense has underwhelmed this season.  Still, give credit to the Commodore defense that locked them down and gave the team a chance to win.  The majority of Bulldog points were due to short fields because of mistakes from the Commodore offense.  Their first touchdown came from a drive that started on the Vandy 28-yard line after an interception.  Their field goal drive to make it 17-0 came after Vandy failed on a 4th down conversion from the Bulldog 45-yard line.  After that, Mississippi State failed to score on seven straight drives, including five three-and-outs, until Seals’ fumble gave the Bulldogs the Ball at the Vandy-13 yard line and the final winning touchdown.

Fighting Hard For Mason

Say what you will about Derek Mason the coach, but his players clearly play hard for him.  When it was 17-0 and Seals threw an endzone pick near the end of the first half, most fans were probably thinking “Here we go again.”  To the Commodores’ credit they didn’t pack it in, got off the mat, and kept fighting, putting themselves in position to win at the end.  I said before the contest this was probably the most winnable game left on the schedule, and I still feel that way now.  However, if they play with this same determination down the stretch against Kentucky, Missouri, and a suddenly spiraling Tennessee, while avoiding the costly mistakes, they still have a legitimate chance to steal a win.

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