BATON ROUGE, La. – Mississippi State University walked into Baton Rouge Saturday with nothing but high hopes and an undefeated record.
The air was light, there was a sense of optimism around the new season and the Bulldogs were 2-0 headed into a conference game with a team that lost to an iffy at best Florida State team in their season opener.
Even through the first quarter, it looked like MSU had an opportunity to grab control of a very hostile atmosphere and walk out with a win, even if only narrowly.
However, once the LSU defense adjusted, that narrative flipped on its own head.
MSU was favored by many, arguably most, but when the dust had settled, the final score rested at 31-16, Tiger's game.
The loss was marred by inconsistencies on both sides of the ball, inconsistencies I was worried about all the way through the first two games. Memphis and Arizona weren't putting the type of physical specimens on the field that LSU does, and until that happened, the offensive line was going to be a question mark.
That question was answered when the final stat sheets read that they allowed Rogers to be sacked four times. In comparison, the Tigers started two freshmen at the tackle spots and only allowed three. There is no way to replace Charles Cross, but Saturday showed just how much of a void will need to be filled.
Another question that fans now have a much clearer picture of is just how far this receiving corps has to go before head coach Mike Leach is happy with it.
Leach cited how explosive the group is during postgame conferences, but also voiced his current concerns.
"We're explosive, just inconsistent. We've got to be consistent, so explosive is fun, (if you're) explosive (you) can get on a run and hit a bunch of dingers on somebody, but that'll catch up to you if you're not consistent," Leach said.
I could shoot bullet points at you, but I won’t. Leach mentioned consistency at least 10 times in the time he spoke, and he said it starts with him.— Tanner Marlar (@tanner_marlar) September 18, 2022
Those inconsistencies in the passing game lead to numerous three and outs that cost what was viewed as a high powered offense greatly. There's still a lot left to figure out with the receiving corps, but they'll have next week at home to get some easier reps.
The final question lies with the special teams staff. There were four attempts on fourth and short by MSU, but only one was successful. The confidence Mike Leach showed in his offense is welcomed, but it was the miscues by the special teams unit that made keeping the offense out on the field understandable.
A muffed punt at the opposing goal line, missed PAT and a near 90-yard kick return called back to their own 17 yard line all vexed the Bulldogs Saturday, and they could not have come at more inopportune times. Those mistakes let the crowd into the game, and once Tiger Stadium made its presence felt, the momentum was all on the side of LSU.
The Bulldogs will have a chance to somewhat rectify the situation next weekend, as they face off against a Bowling Green that is fresh off of back-to-back overtime performances. After that, the real grind of the SEC schedule starts, and there won't be any more time to have questions about which MSU team shows up on Saturdays.