That was nice. Players who needed it got a rest, the offense stretched its bruised muscles a bit, and everyone took care of business (the team was two points away from covering the enormous 43.5-pt spread). This was a much needed respite after last week’s trip to Tuscaloosa capped off back-to-back top ten opponents. I was measuring this game against 2014 ULM to see how the team bounced back. Remember how we came out and eked out a close win over a Sun Belt foe after that disastrous three-game stretch derailed our hot start two years ago? This team responded in a completely different manner. That’s how you can tell how much deeper and cohesive they are. Great day all around. To the digits:
0: forced turnovers. The defense played reasonably well, but we didn’t see the disruptive side of them. NMSU did a decent job taking care of the ball, plus our two most dynamic playmakers sat out. The good news: we still won by six touchdowns with a negative turnover differential.
1: TIGHT END TD CATCH. By far the most impressive part of the second-team O’s performance was this new wrinkle from Hubenak to Cline. Let’s appreciate this: it’s rare as a four-leaf clover, shooting star, or actual funny pun.
2: punt return touchdowns by Christian Kirk. It’s funny to say that a player who led the SEC in receptions coming into the game had been having a “quiet” year, but that’s just the high mark he’d set for himself. And then in one night he became the school record holder in career punt return touchdowns, leapfrogging the three players who had three. Kirk has played in 21 games; he’s not close to being finished.
3: quarterbacks. Hubenak got several series in, and McQueen got one. Made the most of it with a nice run on a zone read keep.
4: this is the number of quarters in a game. We can always rely on Aggie Twitter to find the absurd negative in any situation. Last night it was unwarranted hand-wringing at halftime because some felt we weren’t blowing them out hard enough. There was lots of “oh no we only had two offensive touchdowns, woe are we” as if a punt return touchdown is just something you throw out the window. Folks. This is a good team. They’re built from a solid foundation. They don’t have to score on every single possession because they know the defense will stand tough until they get clicking. And if a 24-3 halftime lead isn’t “good” enough for you, why don’t you take a stroll down memory lane two years ago and see how we finished last night’s game when stacked up against that ULM game and think about how far we’ve come in that time.
5: running backs who got carries. It’s a luxury to suddenly have depth in the backfield after Tra Carson carried the load last year.
6: tackles for Alaka, to lead the team. Including a sack. Good to see #42 playing well. We’ll need all our linebackers at their best against Ole Miss and LSU.
7: team tackles for loss. A little below the average, but again: two of the most aggressive defenders sat out.
8: players who logged rushing yards. THE MAZZONE MACHINE.
12: players with a reception. Excellent distribution job. Even included TWO tight ends.
316: yards allowed
516: yards gained
627: yards Mississippi State gave up to FCS team Samford yesterday.