STARKVILLE — Mississippi State, in its 120 minutes of football played this season, has shown its ceiling and its floor but most importantly has come away with a 2-0 record.
State looked as poor as it has under Mike Leach during the middle two quarters against Louisiana Tech in Week 1. More importantly than the 34 unanswered points La. Tech scored was MSU’s players quitting — a reason for skepticism for a coach in his second season.
But there was also the high of an MSU team battling for a 21-0 fourth quarter for the program’s largest comeback ever.
Week 2 didn’t show as drastic a difference, but it showed State doesn’t need to be that team it was in the final quarter against La. Tech.
Mississippi State’s defense was at its best, holding N.C. State without a touchdown up until garbage time. That was a unit reaching its ceiling.
The offense was inconsistent. It got nothing going in the first quarter. It showed flashes on a couple drives, but it was nowhere near the offense that shined in the first and fourth quarters against La. Tech.
But it didn’t need to be. It was a unit that did enough with what the defense provided and one that didn’t put MSU in unfavorable spots like it did against La. Tech — perhaps more of a reflection of quarterback Will Rogers than anything.
“He had some very key plays, had some near misses,” Leach said. “I'd like him to not have the near misses, which those are technically footwork. The defense tries to screw with your footwork as in, ‘Hey put your feet there, we'll hit you.’ I think he's improving, because the more he gets to deal with his receivers, the better he is.”
There will be moments the offense will pick up the defense. Leach’s Air Raid offense is good enough to where you know games will come where it just clicks.
Ultimately, Saturday showed MSU knows how to win football games even when the littles things aren’t working out in its favor.
“We played a good game against a really good team,” Leach said. “Although, I think we several missed opportunities — like balls we just barely missed by a little bit, or deals where we got pressure on just a little bit, or just runs that we almost broke through, but got tackled by just a little bit.”
Mississippi State now sits in a comfortable spot to walk away from its initial three non-conference games with a perfect record. At worst, a lostt at Memphis and would set them back to the 2-1 mark many projected anyway.
But say MSU can walk out of Memphis with a win next week and pencil in a win against Tennessee State in November, suddenly State is looking at SEC play needing just two wins to clinch a bowl game.
Get greedy with some of the toss up games — LSU, Kentucky, at Arkansas and at Auburn — and Mississippi State starts pushing for a stronger bowl as opposed to just qualifying for one.
It’s early, and if last season taught State fans anything it’s to not look too far ahead after a small sample size.
But through two games, MSU has been flawed yet owns a flawless record.
“There were a lot of good things,” Leach said, “and we did improve today.”