Mississippi State broke out some snazzy new helmets Saturday, but there wasn’t much else to get excited about in the Bulldogs’ 21-3 season-opening loss to No. 13 Oklahoma State in Houston.
Senior quarterback Tyler Russell was knocked from the game in the third quarter after taking a knee to the helmet. He’ll be further evaluated, but his status going forward is uncertain.
It was a rough day all the way around for Russell and the Bulldogs’ offense. After throwing a school-record 24 touchdown passes last season, Russell was off target on a few key first-half passes, including one that was intercepted with Mississippi State driving, and the Bulldogs never found any rhythm offensively after squandering some opportunities to build on an early 3-0 lead.
It was the fewest points a Dan Mullen-coached Mississippi State team has scored since a 31-3 loss to Alabama during his first season in 2009.
The Bulldogs went the entire third quarter without getting a first down, and even before Russell was injured, backup quarterback Dak Prescott was stuffed two different times on third-and-short while operating out of the Wildcat formation.
There were some flashes early for Mississippi State with senior running back LaDarius Perkins getting off to a quick start, but it was all downhill after that. Perkins had 54 rushing yards in the first quarter, but was held to minus-4 yards on the ground the rest of the way.
What’s more, the Bulldogs were terrible on third down (2-of-16) and hung their defense out to dry by leaving them out on the field in the second half. It wasn’t a poor effort by the Mississippi State defense against an Oklahoma State offense that averaged 45.7 points and 547 yards per game last season, but the Bulldogs' D received little help.
The most disappointing thing for Mississippi State, though, was that Oklahoma State was simply more physical than the Bulldogs, who will obviously need to find something to hang their hat on offensively if they’re going to make their fourth straight bowl appearance under Mullen.
Arkansas 34, Louisiana-Lafayette 14
The Bret Bielema era at Arkansas kicked off in grand style and had a familiar look to it.
Much like Bielema’s offenses at Wisconsin, Arkansas muscled its way to 292 rushing yards with the tandem of Jonathan Williams (151 yards) and Alex Collins (130 yards) both topping 100 yards. Collins became the first Arkansas freshman to rush for 100 yards in his debut since Felix Jones in 2005.
The last time the Hogs had two running backs go over 100 yards in the same game was 2007 with Darren McFadden and Felix Jones.
Needless to say, Williams and Collins are obviously in good company.
Over and above the running game, one of the most promising things to come out of the opener for the Hogs was how balanced they were on offense. That’s a big reason Bielema hired Jim Chaney as his offensive coordinator.
Sophomore quarterback Brandon Allen was extremely sharp and finished 15-of-22 for 230 yards, no interceptions and three touchdown passes. He was on point all preseason with his accuracy and didn’t drop off any during game action.
Bielema said Allen has the "demeanor of a championship quarterback."
Defensively, Arkansas had some shaky moments early, and the linebackers will continue to be a work in progress, but the Hogs should be able to hold their own with just about anybody in the defensive line.