Moneyball the term coined by former Oakland Athletics GM Billy Beane is a formula of analyzing advanced statistics to determine the success of a player or team. We begin our weekly series of “Moneyball” by taking a look at the statistics against Charleston Southern to get an idea of where the Bulldogs succeeded and where they came up short.
Mississippi State’s offense put up an impressive 49 points to go along with their 555 yards of total offense. The balanced attack of run and pass is important to the success of any offensive unit, and Dan Mullen worked on that Saturday with an almost even split of passing and rushing yardage on the day. Mississippi State would pick up 281 yards on the ground and 274 through the air. However, a big key to the offensive success of the Bulldogs is to establish the running game outside of Nick Fitzgerald, and they did a very good job of that Saturday. Nick Fitzgerald usually leads the game in rushing yards for Mississippi State but on Saturday his rushing yardage was only good enough to tie with 4th String Running Back Nick Gibson for the 3rd spot on the charts with 41 yards each. The leaders in rushing yardage might have come as a surprise to some with Aeris Williams coming out on top with 16 carries for 83 yards at an average of 5.2 yards per carry. However, even more, impressive was the performance of true Freshman Kylin Hill. Hill rushed for 62 yards on nine carries for an average of 6.9 yards and tied for the longest rush of the day at 19 yards with Nick Fitzgerald.
The Bulldogs were looking to replace Fred Ross, their top wide receiver from a season ago, and they did it with a plethora of wide receivers on Saturday. Farrod Green led the charge with 68 receiving yards, albeit 62 of them came on one play. Donald Gray finished second on the day with 57 yards on 3 catches. However, the most pleasant surprises came in the form of Gabe Myles and Dedrick Thomas. The tandem of receivers combined for 53 yards on two touchdowns and Mississippi State needs them to step up if they want to enter into the upper realms of the SEC West. On to the quarterback play. Nick Fitzgerald went
On to the quarterback play. Nick Fitzgerald had a decent afternoon going 16/29 with 239 yards and two touchdowns and no interceptions. That was good enough for a QBR of 90.5. Vastly improving his QBR of last season, which was only a measly 74.5. Fitzgerald did miss on a couple of wide open receptions and even one that would have been a sure touchdown. Overall though Fitzgerald did well but he will have to improve to be a Heisman Candidate like many expect him to be in the future. Dan Mullen had said that he wasn’t sure if Keytaon Thompson would redshirt his true Freshman season or play, those concerns seemed to be put to bed as Keytaon made his Mississippi State debut in the third quarter. Keytaon went 4/7 for 35 yards and a touchdown. Thompson looked like a Freshman, but he didn’t make any costly mistakes, as he didn’t throw an interception in his final minutes of action. He finished the day with 71 yards of total offense and looked very impressive as a rusher, but he isn’t there yet, but no doubt he will be in the future.
Mississippi State’s offensive unit as a whole had nine potential scoring opportunities and converted on seven of them for a clip of 77% on converting on scoring opportunities. However, the offense had a total of 13 drives (Not counting the last drive) and went 9/13, which means that Mississippi State had a chance to score on 69% of its drives on Saturday. This important statistic shows just how dominate Mississippi State’s offense was.
Todd Grantham began his Mississippi State coaching career with a shutout, much to the glee of Mississippi State fans, who witnessed the horror of what was Peter Sirmon’s defense last season. However, there was a different feeling with this defensive unit, they were fast and really reacted well to Charleston Southern’s option offense. The stats showed this too. Charleston Southern was held to just 33 yards on the day, and 19 of them came in garbage time in the second to last drive of the contest.
Mississippi State only allowed 15 passing yards the whole game against CSU, however, the Bucs only had 8 attempts with only 3 of them being completed. This was still a vast improvement over last season, as our secondary was torched routinely against any team under the sun.
The rushing defense was even better only allowing 18 yards on 39 carries by the Charleston Southern. Very impressive to say the least, as Charleston Southern’s longest rush was only eight yards. This can be attributed to the vastly improved defensive front for the Bulldogs, which tallied five tackles for losses on the day, and stopped many others for short one or two yard gains throughout the contest.
The storyline that truly shows just how dominant Todd Grantham’s unit as a whole was yesterday was midfield. The Bucs didn’t make it past midfield the entire game. I can’t remember the last time a Mississippi State defense had achieved this, but I can guarantee it hasn’t been recent. Equally impressive was the record broken Saturday for lowest average gain per play of 0.7. Another rare sight for Bulldogs fans also was achieved on Saturday, as the defense tallied two safeties for the first time in 17 years. So, yes there defense scored four more points than their offense. This result was what all Mississippi State fans needed, and to be honest I was more excited when our defense was on the field than our offense by a long shot.
I like many other Bulldog fans were excited and nervous to see, who the kicker would be for our season opener, and when it was announced as true Freshman Tucker Day, who was considered as one of the best punters in the nation, I was excited to see a new player go out there and compete. Then Tucker Day missed his first attempt, which was a 32 yard middle of the field shot, but he did later redeem himself by sinking a 40 yarder that would have been good from a little further out. Day finished the game 1/3 from and 5/5 on XPA on the day, but his second miss wasn’t terrible and it was a 48-yard attempt by a true freshman. Overall anything is really an improvement over what we witnessed last year.
The place kicking side of things featured Logan Cooke kicking 3/7 touchbacks, with an average of 64.4 yards per kick. Tucker Day also added one attempt, which was good for a touchback. Overall I was very pleased with our place kicking duties.
Logan Cooke, who is considered one of the top punters in the nation averaged 44.3 yards per punt with a long of 59 yards. Cooke also had one punt downed at the one yard, which then resulted in a safety two plays later.
The return tandem of Donald Gray and Gabe Myles did well, as they both had one return for an average of 37 yards, and Myles also added 22 yards on three punt returns.
Overall the Bulldogs statistically speaking were impressive, albeit against subpar competition. The Bulldogs of Lousiana Tech will pose a greater challenge next week, as Mississippi State will go on the road for the first time this upcoming Saturday.