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Mississippi State Grades
Posted by Woody Woodruff on Monday November 18 2013 @ 10:27AM CST
[ The Commissioner's Blog ]
Beauty, they say, is in the eye of the beholder. Meaning that what is aesthetically pleasing, is inherently subjective. In other words, if it looks good to you, then it is good as far as you are concerned.

I think that the opposite must also be true. If something looks ugly to you, then as far as you are concerned it is ugly.

Applying that logic to Saturday night's game between Alabama and Mississippi State leads me to conclude that what the Tide displayed in Starkville is about as ugly as it could be and still result in a win. In fact, what the Offense coughed up-literally as well as figuratively-was awful enough to lose two games. The redeeming feature was excellent play by the Defense which had to respond to four turnovers; three in the second half, two of which were committed in the fourth quarter.

When a serious case can be made that Cody Mandel was the player of the game, you know you are dealing with the ugliest of ugly wins.

Think about this: The Alabama drive chart contains as many lost fumbles as touchdowns, and as many interceptions as field goals.

The offensive line allowed 7 tackles for lost yardage, and 7 quarterback hurries. Alabama was only able to convert 4 of 12 third downs, and Cody Mandel punted as many times Saturday night as he did the entire month of October.

To be sure, there were some noteworthy individual performances against MSU. TJ Yeldon ran for a career high 160 yards in the game and topped the 1,000 yard rushing mark for the second year in a row. Tight end, Brian Vogler caught his first career touchdown pass, and AJ secured his place in the Alabama record books with 8,146 career yards, surpassing John Parker Wilson as the record holder in that category. But these individual efforts do not make up for the turnovers, negative plays and penalties [5 for 41 yards] by the team as a whole.

Here's how I grade the game:

Offense: F A failing grade in a win over a conference opponent? I do not believe any other grade is justified. The Offense earned the failing grade notwithstanding the final score. I know State has big, strong defensive linemen who play a very physical game. So does LSU, Tennessee and Ole Miss. So also does Auburn, but more about the Tigers later.

AJ went the distance. His second interception was the result of a throw made under duress and the first pick was not made in bounds. He threw 32 times and completed 18 for 187 yards and 2 TDs.

Cyrus Jones was the leading receiver with 37 yards on 5 receptions. Amari Cooper gained 45 yards on 4 catches. DeAndrew White added 28 yards on 2 receptions and Kevin Norwood caught 2 passes for 23 yards and a TD. It seems like every time Norwood catches the ball it is a play fit for the highlight reel. Eight different players caught passes.

TJ Yeldon's 160 net rushing yards came on 24 carries [6.7 average] including a fabulous 50 yard run in the third quarter. Kenyan Drake carried the ball 4 times for 28 yards. Both running backs lost fumbles. Drake's miscue was the result of poor technique; he carried the ball too low and away from his body in traffic.

The Offense managed only four drives that gained in excess of 40 yards [59, 78, 77, 75] each resulted in points. In the first half, the Tide's drives opened with a field goal and concluded with a touchdown. In between, the Offense produced three punts and an interception. The second half's drives opened with a lost fumble, but the Offense seemed to regain its footing with consecutive long scoring drives that earned 10 points. Then the wheels, as they say, came off with the final three meaningful possessions resulting in an interception, a lost fumble and a punt.

Defense: A- Some readers will no doubt criticize this grade as being too generous. After all, they will argue, State suffered a self-inflicted missed field goal at the end of a sustained second quarter drive that gained 73 yards on 10 plays. Nevertheless, MSU only converted 4 of 15 third downs during the game, gained only 197 yards of net offense and earned only 53 yards rushing in the game.

CJ Mosley led all defenders with 8 tackles. Trey DePriest made 6 stops including 1 for lost yardage and broke up a pass. Jarrick Williams, Landon Collins and A'Shawn Robinson each were credited with 5 tackles. Jeffrey Pagan, Cyrus Jones and Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix each made 4. Collectively, the defensive unit made 5 tackles for lost yardage [2 sacks], forced 2 fumbles [no recoveries], broke up 4 passes and hurried the State QB once. Snuffing out a scoring threat, Clinton-Dix made an interception in the end zone which he returned 16 yards.

Special Teams:

Punting A+ Cody Mandel punted 4 times for an average of 54 yards per punt. He made one punt for a career high 63 yards and kept State in disadvantageous field position.

Place Kicking: A Cade Foster was good from 33 and 35 yards. He made both PAT attempts.

Kickoffs: B+ Foster handled all of the kickoff duties and averaged only 59.2 yards gross per kick even with two touchbacks. With a net average of 41.8 yards, the coverage unit played a much better game than it did last week against LSU.

Coaching: C+ The coaching staff grade must reflect the poor performance of the Offense. Moreover, for Alabama to commit 5 penalties in a game where Mississippi State-a perennially undisciplined team-is flagged only once is inexcusable. The participation report lists only 47 players who saw action against the Bulldogs.

As ugly as Alabama's win over the Bulldogs was, it was much more attractive than the Eastern Bulldogs' loss earlier in the day down in The Village. In case you were engrossed in last minute study of the Alabama game plan and missed the ending of The South's Oldest Football Rivalry, here is a summary: Georgia erased a 17 point deficit in the 4th quarter to take a one point lead, 38-37, over Auburn. With only seconds to play, and facing a 4th down and 18 deep in Auburn territory, the Tiger QB threw a Hail Mary pass deep down the middle of the field. The pass was under-thrown and the AU receiver was double-covered. Instead of simply knocking the ball to the turf-which would have given UGA the ball at the AU 22, both of the Georgia DBs tried to intercept. This resulted in the ball ricocheting into the air and into the hands of the dumb-founded Auburn receiver who took it unmolested into the end zone for the game-winning points.

How bad is the quality of Georgia coaching? How much longer will the keepers of the football flame in Athens tolerate Mark Richt?

What does this mean for Alabama? Probably not much. Auburn will certainly be sky high. The Villagers were chanting "We want Bama," like that hasn't been done already this year. Let' s see: I remember TAMU and LSU doing it, as well as Oregon. The Aggies and Tigers got more of Bama than they could handle and the Ducks wanted Alabama so much they forgot about Stanford.

The Tide has two weeks to get ready to play the Iron Bowl. Saturday night's game against MSU will certainly provide many items for the Tide coaching staff to put on the To-Do list. Most of those will be allocated to the position coaches working with the Offense.

While UT Chattanooga is next up, and while it is Tide doctrine to respect each opponent and not to look ahead, let's be candid with each other. Next week's game is a chance to iron out problems and work on fundamentals. The work done between now and Thanksgiving will determine the championship of the SEC West.

I would not trade the senior leadership of CJ and AJ for any pair of players in the game, and nobody in their right mind would want anyone other than Coach Saban at the helm of their football program. I am confident that they will get the job done, and no matter the "style-points" any win over Auburn is a thing of beauty.

There is no such thing as an ugly win on the Plains. So, welcome the Moccasins to Tuscaloosa this coming Saturday. Pay tribute to the finest senior class ever to wear Crimson and White. And help the 2013 Tide write their names in crimson flame.

The Commissioner

< History in the Making | AJ Should Be Heisman Bound >

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