We knew we’d have at least one 1-0 team heading into the Gamecocks matchup with Mississippi St. We knew the Bulldogs were on the way. We weren’t certain about South Carolina. We didn’t think this is where we would be.
After a head-scratching and soul searching loss to South Alabama, Evan, the entire For Whom the Cowbell Tolls crew and all of Starkville are left reeling. We test their spirits in our second Q&A of 2016.
1. After the South Alabama game, your site wrote it would like to see some changes out of Dan Mullen's offensive play calling. Specifically, what changes would you like to see out of the Bulldogs offense against South Carolina?
Specifically, I would like for him to just full on stop calling plays. I have never been a fan of Dan Mullen as a play caller. He did it the last two years with Dak and got away with it for the most part because 9 times out of 10, Dak would salvage it on his own. That was until we got into big games against good teams i.e. Alabama in '14, LSU and the Egg Bowl this past year and he just looked helpless. Mullen's favorite thing was to send Dak up the middle on 1st, 2nd AND 3rd just for funsies, it was miserable. But I digress. Truly I would like to see more downfield passing, but that requires a passer that can hit something longer than an 8 yard crossing route. More designed runs to showcase the athletic ability of Brandon Holloway, while balancing him with Malik Dear, who is set to return to the roster after his suspension, this week
2. When I think about Bulldogs running back Brandon Holloway, I think of A.J. Turner - speedy, but not built for the bruise and bang of an SEC schedule. Is Holloway the Bulldogs best option at RB in 2016 and who is a second option you'd like to see emerge in week 2?
I probably should've read all of the questions before I started answering them one by one, because I kinda already hit this one. My bad. I do think that Holloway is our best option because he has shown me the most so far. My only reservation with him is his size. He just straight up doesn't look like a guy that could handle a full SEC schedule as RB1. Only thing is, he has shown me almost no reason to hold that against him. The way he carries himself on the field tells me he understands he's not the biggest guy on the field, but he's going to use that to his advantage. I really like Holloway and I hope this is a big year for him.
3. Taking a step back, what were Mississippi St. fans' general expectations heading in 2016? And, after the season opening loss, do most feel those expectations as still being reasonable goals?
Well, James, I can tell you that we sure as hell weren't expecting this. The general tone of most fans was that they were expecting a rough-and-tumble year of football with Nick Fitzgerald at the helm, taking the Dawgs to an 8-4 or 7-5 season with a average bowl game. I was more on the cynical side, expecting more like 6-6, not allowing myself to buy in to the disappointment that I thought was sure to come. I knew it was going to be a hard year after the Dak era but man, I had no idea. Now, are these goals still attainable? Sure, State could turn this ship around and win out. Will they? History tells me no. In the mighty SEC West, wins are hard enough to come by and one of the "automatic" W's just flew out the window. So, for us to climb our way out of this hole and back into the realm of bowl eligibility, State is going to have to steal one somewhere else, and I'm just not sure where it's going to come from.
4. Right now, today, how much do you miss Dak Prescott? And, what were the expectations for the QB position heading into the season?
Sir, this is a question that I'm not sure you fully comprehended when you sent it to me. You have no idea. The worst part of Saturday was that final drive. State was down 21-20 with 57 seconds left, they huddled up on the sideline and I just sat there and knew that there was no longer that one player on the team that Mullen can just hand the ball to and say "go win us the game". It was a hopeless feeling, watching, wanting someone to save you, but knowing all is for naught.
The offseason battle for the QB1 spot was a fairly uneventful one, because pretty much everyone expected Fitzgerald to be the starter, and they were right. Most, however, were not expecting him to only be allowed two drives after consecutive 3 & outs, preventing him from getting a true feel for the offense. Was I upset to see Damian Williams come in and play the rest of the game? No, not really. But, I did have a problem with his inability to hit a receiver more than 12 yards down the field. Were South Alabama's DBs the real deal? Maybe, but I can guarantee that the defenses will only get harder from here.
5. As a biased fan of your upcoming opponent, a 9.5 - 10.5 point spread seems a little high given the team we're playing just lost to a Sun Belt team. Prove me wrong and convince me I should be more worried than I currently am.
Nothing I saw Saturday validates that large of a spread. The only favor that should be allowed is home field advantage for a 6 PM game. Outside of that, I think 10.5 is absurd. Although, I wasn't too impressed with the Gamecocks display against Vanderbilt last week either.
6. Bouncing off the last one, what's your prediction for the matchup against our Gamecocks?
Prediction time. Saturday is going to be a defining point for this team. Can they collect themselves after an embarrassing loss, move forward and improve? I would truly hope that Mullen can recognize the mistakes that were made by both players and the coaching staff and correct them. He has shown himself to be a capable head coach and I want to see the Mullen that once demanded respect for Mississippi State. If this season is going to be any resemblance of a success, it has to start this weekend and it has to be convincing. The return of Malik Dear from suspension and the introduction of Jeffery Simmons to college football should be positive boosts on both sides of the ball, so I expect to see slight improvements in those areas. It's going to be a rough one and it definitely won't be pretty but I think the Bulldogs move to 1-1 after week two. Score: 21-16, Dawgs.