It wasn’t that long ago that we were all hurling cheers and praise in the direction of Mike Leach and the Mississippi State football team. When the Bulldogs toppled the LSU Tigers in Death Valley in a historic win, we were all rightfully thrilled with the future of the program.
We’d assumed Leach, the air raid offense, this Mississippi State team had gone ahead and proved itself in just one game.
Now, following a couple of crushing losses to Arkansas and Kentucky in back-to-back weeks, many are questioning Leach, his offense, and the direction he is taking the Mississippi State football team in.
After MSU’s offense completely imploded in Lexington and the Bulldogs managed to score a meager 2 points against the Wildcats, there’s more than a few reasons to be frustrated with how this season is swirling.
While everyone with reasonable expectations knew the hiring of Leach would lead to an adjustment period, that deceptive win over LSU has drastically altered what many expected out of the Bulldogs. It seemed as if the air raid offense, Mississippi State, and Leach had all proven themselves in the midst of their entering of the college football limelight.
Now we know for certain that Leach, his offense, and the Bulldogs still have plenty of work to do.
Beating the Tigers in Baton Rouge yielded the following headlines:
- “LSU vs. Mississippi State score, takeaways: Mike Leach’s offense blows doors off No. 6 Tigers in upset” – CBS Sports
- “Mississippi State’s Mike Leach sends warning shot to rest of SEC in debut” – Yahoo! Sports
- “Mike Leach’s ‘Air Raid’ becomes ’60 Minutes of Hell’ for LSU” – Sporting News
All of these headlines came after just one game. That’s an incredibly small sample size. That’ll lead to some quick reactions.
Now, the loss to Kentucky brought these along:
- “Brian Jones: Mike Leach won’t work in the SEC” – CBS Sports Radio
- “Mike Leach Is Getting Destroyed For His Team’s Performance Tonight” – The Spun
- “What to know about Mississippi State’s unbelievably bad offense vs. Kentucky” – Sporting News
- “‘A roller coaster’: Why Mike Leach is already soul-searching at Mississippi State” – Clarion Ledger
While State has played more games, giving folks a slightly larger sample size to work with, it’s still deceptive because of how small it is. And that’ll lead to some more quick reactions.
Leach’s offense is still the same now as it was from that week one win. And sure, defenses have adjusted to better attack the air raid’s weaknesses, it feels as if the execution of this offense is disjointed, leading to MSU repeatedly shooting itself in the foot and ultimately losing games in frustrating fashion.
None of that means that Leach should be canned, despite the Facebook posts that will tell you otherwise. None of that means that the air raid is a dud, despite the critical tweets.
All it means is that Mississippi State and Leach must work to prove themselves to the college football world once more.
The win over LSU might have been fool’s gold, sure, but there’s plenty of evidence that MSU’s new offense can work in the long run.
It just might take some time to get there.
The Bulldogs will take some lumps along the road, as we’ve very clearly seen over the past two weeks, but with all the winning he’s done in remote, rural schools that have been historically pushovers in their conference Leach has earned a shot to be able to prove himself in the SEC.
Can he do that this year? That’s the big question here. It remains to be seen, but it unfortunately seems unlikely. As Jake Wimberly points out, Mississippi State just doesn’t have the athletes to truly run the air raid offense in a successful manner.
While Leach may have inherited a talent rich roster, especially compared to what he’s used to getting, this offensive line isn’t used to doing this much pass protection in any single game, this group of wide receivers has never been relied upon that much, and even State’s transfer quarterback has never been forced to throw the ball as many times per game in his career as he is now.
It might be another year or two (or maybe more) before Leach is truly able to have a roster ready to prove that this offense can work in the SEC the way many thought he did after State’s season opening win over LSU.
But, for this year, he needs to prove that his teams can compete. He needs to prove that his teams can play without making so many mistakes. He needs to prove he’s continuing to take MSU in the right direction.