Vanderbilt, Mississippi St. look to get offenses going

Field Level Media

November 04, 2020 at 6:21 am.

Two Southeastern Conference teams with struggling offenses attempt to snap four-game losing streaks when Vanderbilt visits Mississippi State on Saturday afternoon in Starkville, Miss.

The Commodores (0-4, 0-4) are looking for their first win and the Bulldogs (1-4, 1-4) haven’t won since opening the season with a 44-34 upset against LSU.

Mississippi State (14.8 points per game) and Vanderbilt (11.3) are the league’s two worst scoring offenses. State ranks 12th in total offense (348.8 yards per game) while the Commodores are dead last (297.8).

After quarterback K.J. Costello threw for an SEC-record 623 yards in the win against the Tigers, coach Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense has gone cold, scoring zero points twice and 14 in each of the other two games.

Costello has thrown one touchdown and eight interceptions post-LSU. Last week, he threw for 16 yards on 11 attempts vs. Alabama before leaving with a head injury. But true freshman quarterback Will Rogers (one touchdown, four interceptions, 4.4 yards per attempt) has also struggled.

The pair are State’s only two eligible scholarship quarterbacks. Leach says that MSU is monitoring Costello’s health, and believes the Bulldogs haven’t lost heart.

“Honestly, it’s kind of ‘committed to improve,'” Leach said this week, when asked to describe the team’s mood. “I’m not happy with the results, but committed to improve.”

The Bulldogs rank second in the league in total defense (336.2) but eighth in scoring defense (29.6). MSU’s minus-12 turnover margin hasn’t helped.

The Commodores played their best offensive game last week against a weak Ole Miss defense. Quarterback Ken Seals was 31-for-40 with a VU freshman-record 319 passing yards, two touchdowns and an interception in a 54-21 loss.

The defense, however, was lit up for 641 yards. Vanderbilt had shown promise there in a season-opening, 17-12 loss to Texas A&M, but has been out-scored 136-35 since.

The Commodores didn’t play three weeks prior to Saturday’s game due to opt-outs and positive COVID-19 tests that postponed the Missouri game, which came next to a bye week.

Coach Derek Mason’s defense has all kinds of experience. On Tuesday, Mason blamed the recent drop-off on a lack of continuity due to a lack of bodies.

“The experience piece is good, but when you haven’t played together enough, you’re still trying to get that timing, that trust,” Mason said

It’s been a war of attrition for both teams.

Mississippi State running back Kylin Hill (295 yards from scrimmage in three games) didn’t play the next two and recently confirmed he’s done for the year. He’s the eighth Bulldog to leave in the last three weeks, though several weren’t significant contributors.

As for Vanderbilt, four key offensive linemen opted out before the season began. Mason announced that starting safety Donovan Kaufman (who missed the last two games for health reasons) is done this year, and that running back Ja’Veon Marlow remains suspended a second straight week.

This is Mississippi State’s homecoming. The Bulldogs are 19.5-point favorites.