Sanctions, pressure, and miscommunication: what went wrong for Mississippi state’s offensive against Alabama

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STARKVILLE – Will Rogers had barely recovered from the pitch.

After Alabama linebacker Henry To’oTo’o came over the edge to drop Rogers for Crimson Tide’s sixth sack of Saturday’s game, Rogers bounced back with a 9-yard pass to Makai Polk, taking the third place at the 44-yard line.

Immediately, Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr. sprinted past right tackle Scott Lashley and sacked Rogers again.

It was Anderson’s fourth sack of the game, it was Alabama’s seventh, and it forced the Bulldogs to punt as their third quarter practice ended unceremoniously in under two minutes. .

The three-and-out streak was a perfect example of how the Mississippi State offense has struggled harder than ever this season in a 49-9 loss to Alabama.

The Bulldogs only totaled 299 yards, including negative-1 rushing yard – thanks to the seven sacks – and didn’t score a touchdown. They were 15 points below their previous worst result of 2021.

But it wasn’t just Alabama’s pass rush that led to Mississippi State’s inability to put the ball into the end zone on Saturday. A perfect storm of penalties, pressure and miscommunication doomed the Bulldogs’ offense from the start.

Rogers was intercepted on two of his first three drives, including a 40-yard pick-six by Jordan Battle in Alabama. Rogers finished 35 of 55 for just 300 yards and didn’t throw a touchdown pass for the first time this season.

“He tried extremely hard to the point where he threw balls out of his character and forced some of them,” Mississippi State coach Mike Leach said. “He was trying to do too many things and insisted. “

But the blame lies with Rogers’ targets as well as the sophomore quarterback, according to Leach.

“I didn’t think he was as precise in his readings as he could have been,” Leach said. “I didn’t think our receivers were always where they were supposed to be.”

Leach went so far as to say that his receivers practically tried to “make up” their routes and therefore had no chance of being found by Rogers, which would almost explain some of the wide throws made by Rogers.

Alabama’s defensive game plan, at least, can explain Rogers’ two interceptions in the first quarter. Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said Josh Jobe picked the first in Cover 2, while Battle’s pick was six in a new travel cover called “Thief.”

“Our players have done a great job,” said Saban. “They knew what the patterns were going to be in relation to formations and receiver locations and they did a good job playing them out.”

Alabama limited Mississippi State to just 4 yards per play and stiffened in the red zone. The Bulldogs crossed the 20-yard line just twice for Brandon Ruiz to manage to hit 44-yard field goals each time.

“We also had good pressure on the quarterback when we were in the red zone, which also helped,” said Saban. “It’s the best we’ve played in the red zone so I was really happy. (We) had a good plan and the players did a good job executing it.

Tide’s pass rush gave Rogers and the Bulldogs nightmares throughout the game. Alabama had two sacks each in the first and second quarters and three more in the third, sending Rogers running for his life time and time again.

Rogers was sacked twice in three games in the first quarter and downed in the third in the second, allowing the Alabama defense to leave the field.

And while the tide didn’t need much help to stop the Bulldogs, the state of Mississippi was charitable anyway. Although MSU finished with fewer penalty yards than their opponent for the first time this season, an ugly streak in the second quarter proved to be important.

In the second and sixth at Mississippi State 41 seconds into the period, Lashley was called up for a false start, sending the Bulldogs back five yards. In the next snap, Lashley and left tackle Charles Cross were both flagged for detention as Rogers shot incomplete for Jaden Walley. The penalties were denied, establishing a third try.

Rogers connected with Makai Polk for a 12-yard gain to move the sticks, but the offensive line had no impact on the game. Another hold flag on the second try made it second and -20, and two short plays couldn’t take the yardage. Mississippi State kicked off the ball.

Maybe it was a sign of things to come.

Theo DeRosa reports on Mississippi state sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.


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