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Texas A&M Football

SEC Round-up: More losses creating more doubt for Moorhead

October 24, 2019
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Once, four consecutive football losses was inevitable at Mississippi State. Times and fortunes have changed, though.

Mississippi State has not suffered four consecutive losses since losing seven in a row in 2005. Yet, here they are again.

In their last three games, the Bulldogs have fallen to Auburn, Tennessee, and LSU. They travel to Texas A&M on Saturday in serious jeopardy of facing a fourth consecutive defeat.

Coincidentally, Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead may find his job in jeopardy if the Bulldogs’ losing streak continues.

Mississippi State had posted at least nine victories in three out of four seasons from 2014-17 under Dan Mullen.

So, some in Starkville soured on Moorhead last year when the Bulldogs finished 8-5 finish despite having three future NFL first-round draft choices on defense and Nick Fitzgerald, arguably the second-best quarterback in school history.

Should the Bulldogs (3-4) fall to A&M, they’d need to win three of their final four games to be bowl eligible. They still face Alabama and Ole Miss. If the Bulldogs don’t qualify for postseason play, that may be too much to overcome.

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Moorhead may find himself out of a job if the Bulldogs don’t qualify for a bowl. 

Moorhead, who came to Mississippi State from Penn State, has been rumored as a candidate for the recently-opened head coach position at Rutgers. Moorhead told radio host Paul Finebaum that he’s not interested in a job at Rutgers.

“It's not something that is under consideration," Moorhead said last week. "My focus is here at Mississippi State. This is where we want to be and what we want to do."

Still, there seems to be some question as to exactly what he wants to do with the offense. Last year Moorhead temporarily benched Fitzgerald because he wasn’t a fit in the downfield passing scheme.

He also brought in quarterback Tommy Stevens, a transfer from Penn State. Stevens started the season at quarterback but suffered an injury in a loss to Auburn.

Although he’s come back and played against Tennessee, Moorhead is now apparently going with freshman Garrett Shrader, who is an inconsistent passer, but a strong runner. He’s led the Bulldogs in rushing in each of the last four games.

That’s come at a cost to running back Kylin Hill, who amassed 551 rushing yards in the first four games. Hill has managed just 92 rushing yards in the last three games combined.

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After a strong start to the season, Kylin Hill has struggled to tote the football. 

“I want as much as anybody for (Hill) to be able to come out and rush for 150 or 200 yards a game," Moorhead said. "But when you're playing against the defenses in this league, in a line of scrimmage football league, there are going to be games when he doesn't hit 150 or doesn't hit 100. Maybe he hits 50." 

Further, Mississippi State is ranked 11th in the Southeastern Conference in total offense and total defense. It is 10th in scoring and 11th in points allowed. The Bulldogs have also allowed the most sacks in the SEC.

Still, Moorhead appears defiant to those that might question the direction of his program.

"We're building something special here," Moorhead said earlier this week. "Because you know who believes it? The dang kids in the locker room. That's what means the most to me.”

Around the SEC…

This week’s games: Mississippi State at Texas A&M; Arkansas at Alabama; Auburn at LSU; Missouri at Kentucky; South Carolina at Tennessee

Who’s hot: Somebody has to be catching all those passes from Joe Burrow. LSU receiver Justin Jefferson has caught 27 passes for 367 yards and 4 touchdowns over the last five games. He’s now the SEC’s leading receiver with 759 yards on 48 catches and nine touchdowns.

Who’s not: Arkansas seems to be leasing space in this category. The Razorbacks should just go ahead and buy. Their offense has managed a total of 539 yards in the last two games. Also, the Razorbacks have accumulated a mere 5 touchdowns over the last three games.

Keep an eye on: The Tennessee quarterback situation is intriguing. Jarrett Guarantano ignored a play coach Jeremy Pruitt called on the goal line and lost a fumble that went for a 100-yard touchdown in last week’s loss to Alabama. Pruitt likely feels he cannot trust Guarantano, who hasn’t played well anyway. But recent starter Brian Maurer has suffered two concussions the last two weeks and is doubtful to play this week against South Carolina. Therefore, Pruitt may turn to redshirt freshman J.T. Shrout, who has attempted just 10 passes this season. He’s completed three of them.

The pressure is on: Missouri is 0-2 on the road. That’s scary but even scarier is that losses were at Wyoming and Vanderbilt. Next, they head to Lexington to face Kentucky, which is better than both those teams. The Tigers need quarterback Kelly Bryant to bounce back from a porous showing in the 21-14 loss to Vandy. He completed just 13 passes for 140 yards and an interception on second-and-goal at the 9-yard line.

Best matchup: LSU’s offensive line vs. Auburn’s defensive line. Though Auburn seems to have an edge it’s not necessarily a huge advantage. Auburn must control LSU’s running game and get a consistent pass rush on LSU quarterback Joe Burrow to have any chance to pull off an upset. The individual clashes between Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown and LSU center Lloyd Cushenberry should be epic.

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SEC Round-up: More losses creating more doubt for Moorhead

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