Saturday night showed how quickly a game can fall apart, as the first six minutes of the ballgame saw Mississippi State University’s starting quarterback go down and Auburn University go up by 21 points.
Following a 56-23 thumping by the Tigers on the Plains, MSU head coach Joe Moorhead was quick to acknowledge the poor position his team put themselves in from the get-go.
“Against a good football team like this, we went into the week talking about how small the margin of error is, and to come out and spot them 21 before the band even gets in their seats, you don’t give yourself a chance,” Moorhead said.
It was an absolute nightmare scenario for the Bulldogs early on. Their first time to line up on offense lead to a delay of game, and Auburn’s first time to line up and snap the football led to a thirty yard touchdown run to go up 7-0 two minutes into the ball game. Then, things went from bad to worse for MSU.
On their second drive, the Bulldogs produced a total of -3 yards of offense, including an incomplete pass where quarterback Tommy Stevens, a graduate student quarterback from Indianapolis, Indiana and a transfer from Penn State University, was hit as he threw, leaving Stevens with a leg injury to replace the shoulder injury the senior captain had just recovered from. Stevens would not return to the game.
Auburn’s second drive did not take much longer than their first. It ended with a nine yard touchdown run from Bo Nix, who was statistically on his way to an incredible night. When MSU fumbled the next kickoff, Auburn only needed two plays to go 18 yards and into the end zone. Just like that, Auburn led 21-0 just six minutes into the ballgame. Moorhead was quick to point the blame at himself.
“I thought some of our warts got exposed today ... and they [Auburn] took advantage of them," Moorhead said. "Certainly the first and biggest thumb goes back to me.”
While Garrett Shrader, a freshman quarterback from Charlotte, North Carolina, ended up producing some big numbers for the Bulldogs, it was too little, too late. The true freshman came up with 209 yards and two touchdowns through the air, in addition to 89 yards and one touchdown on the ground, all in an incredibly hostile environment. Senior offensive lineman Darryl Williams, from Bessemer, Alabama, was impressed with the performance in Shrader’s first action on the road.
“Like I said, Garrett is a guy that goes with the 1s a lot in practice, a guy that’s a gamer," Williams said. "[He is] A guy that brings swagger and a guy that is beyond his years as a freshman. I think he’s gonna be a great guy in this league. So, I’m looking forward to seeing how his future plays out.”
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While there were struggles on both sides of the ball, there were also sparks of greatness from Shrader and other Bulldogs like Farrod Green, a senior tight end from Wesson. One of those bright moments for the Bulldogs was near the end of the first half, when Shrader connected with Green for 47 yards down to six-inches shy of the goal line, although some fans felt sure Green was in. He was not so sure.
“I feel like the refs made the right call. I gotta get in the end zone there. It was tough,” Green said.
He ended the night with 69 yards receiving on three catches. However, the senior said he is not worried about his performance, but the team’s.
“It’s always tough. I’m not looking at the plays I made. I could have made more plays that y’all didn’t see," Green said. "(You) Just move on and pick everybody up, like the younger guys. Learn from it. Get ready for the next game at Tennessee.”
This Saturday will be a day of rest for the Bulldogs, as it is a bye week before they travel to Neyland Stadium in Knoxville to play the University of Tennessee.
“It’s good. We’re a little banged up across the board,” Moorhead said. “I think we got some injuries, some bumps and bruises we need to heal up. I think we need to evaluate our personnel."