Report card: Grading Mike Leach, Mississippi State football in loss to Texas A&M – Clarion Ledger

STARKVILLE — The report cards Mike Leach might want to hide from his parents are starting to stack up. 

Swing For The Fences with your Custom Bat!

Mississippi State lost its third straight game in a fashion much similar to the two that came before it. The Bulldogs were flat-out feeble on the offensive side of the ball in a 28-14 defeat to No. 11 Texas A&M.

Here is how Leach’s team graded out in the loss.

Offense: F

It’s just impossible to give this unit anything better than a failing grade.

The Kentucky game was bad. Really bad. Mississippi State didn’t score any offensive points. The Texas A&M game wasn’t much better. The Bulldogs scored a single touchdown and were even worse in some categories than they were against the Wildcats.

Oct 17, 2020; Starkville, Mississippi, USA;  Mississippi State Bulldogs quarterback K.J. Costello (3) makes a pass against the Texas A&M Aggies during the first quarter at Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Mississippi State mustered a measly 217 yards, including minus-2 rushing yards. Leach said that this is as much as any offense he’s ever coached has struggled. He called the Bulldogs “a bunch of pin cushions” on offense.

“Right now, we’re one team on Tuesday and Wednesday and another on Saturday,” Leach said. “We have to be able to translate it to the field. If you think it’s frustrating for you, you can try it from my standpoint if you think you’ll feel any better.” 

The offensive line gave up six sacks. Whether it was senior quarterback K.J. Costello or freshman Will Rogers, the MSU quarterback was constantly pressured. And speaking of the quarterbacks, Costello was pulled for Rogers for the second week in a row. That’s always a telltale sign of a flailing, failing offense.

Defense: C+

It was good to great at times, but it still wasn’t enough.

Mississippi State held Texas A&M to 325 yards, 139 through the air and 186 on the ground. Fifty-one of Texas A&M senior quarterback Kellen Mond’s passing yards came on one play — a touchdown pass on a crossing route that freshman receiver Chase Lane took to the house.

Aggies’ sophomore running back Isaiah Spiller had 114 yards on 18 carries. He also scored two touchdowns. It was the most success an opposing running back has had against Mississippi State all season.

“Their o-line did a really good job of getting to the second level,” sophomore linebacker Aaron Brule said. “There is a lot of things we could have done better. Probably be more physical, be more downhill.” 

The Bulldogs could have gotten to Mond and Spiller in the backfield more often, too. Mississippi State only had one tackle for loss. The MSU defense didn’t record any sacks after registering an SEC-best 12 through the first three games.

Special teams: F

Leach said he thought Mississippi State’s special teams played like pin cushions, too.  

The Bulldogs didn’t return any punts or kickoffs. They punted seven times for an average of 36.3 yards. None of the punts was downed inside the 10 and one of them was blocked to set up a Texas A&M 1-yard touchdown. That one put the Aggies ahead 14-0.

The Aggies returned six punts for an average of 14 yards. A&M punted five times for an average of 43.4 yards, and two of the punts were downed inside the 20. The blocked punt was a big blow for the Bulldogs and is the reason why this unit gets a failing grade.

Coaching: F

Until Mississippi State starts winning again — or at least until it stops losing in this manner — the coaching staff will continue to receive a failing grade.

Leach was brought to Starkville to implement his Air Raid offense. The installation of it clearly has not gone well. Leach is on the hook for that.

He’s also on the hook for not getting his players to take what they’re doing in practices to games. Leach said the offensive line blocks well in practice. The wide receivers don’t drop passes. The quarterbacks make the right reads.

It’s not happening on Saturdays. Leach needs to figure out why and make it happen.

“We’re more behind than I’d hoped we’d be,” Leach said. “If you want to see us play well, come to practice.” 

Contact Tyler Horka at thorka@gannett.com. Follow @tbhorka on Twitter. To read more of Tyler’s work, subscribe to the Clarion Ledger today!

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