Today, the SLU Lions traveled up to Starkville, Mississippi, for a matchup with the Bulldogs of Mississippi State. The game started off slow for both teams, but the Bulldogs eventually found a rhythm and pulled away for a dominant 48-7 win. Southeastern still made some plays down the stretch and showed promise, and I’ll showcase some of the performances this week.
As expected, SLU ran their normal 2-QB system. NSU transfer Zachary Clement started the game, but Eli Sawyer came in a couple drives later and stayed in for the majority of the contest. Both quarterbacks made some throws downfield but the majority of completions were checkdowns. That was expected as Mississippi State has one of the most experienced secondaries in the SEC. Sawyer completed 11-19 passes for 85 yards, and Clement went 5-9 for 40 yards and a touchdown to Jacob Logan, the lone score on the day for the Lions.
Longtime starter Will Rogers made his 33rd consecutive start for the Bulldogs, dating back to 2020. The junior set the record for the most snaps played in a career in the SEC today, and added to his record for most career completions in the conference, a record he will run away with as Rogers still has two seasons of eligibility remaining. This was in part because of Mike Leach’s air raid system; with Coach Leach having passed away and defensive-oriented coach Zack Arnett taking over, it was appearant that the offensive scheme and tempo has completely changed in Starkville. Rogers completed 20 out of 29 pass attempts, numbers low for the quarterback compared to seasons past. Rogers threw for 227 and a pair of touchdowns on the day.
For SLU, the offensive star of the day was Harlan Dixon, who put together himself a little highlight reel in his Lion debut. The junior transfer from Louisiana Tech totaled 51 rushing yards on just 8 carries, and added an additional 42 receiving yards on 4 catches with a long of 28. Dixon made people miss and broke several tackles en route to this impressive statline. Rodeo Graham Jr. provided the Lions with a change of pace in the backfield, carrying the rock 5 times for 23 yards, and adding a 5-yard catch out of the backfield. Tight end Bauer Sharp took a carry for 13 yards, and CC transfer Cyrus Zuell was handed the ball 4 times for 12 yards, plus took care of 6 returns today for the Lions, out of 7.
The Bulldogs rushed more than they passed today, partly because of the scheme change, and partly because they held a lead for the majority of the game. Jo’Quavious “Woody” Marks carried the ball for a career-high 19 times and tallied 127 yards, plus a touchdown. Vanderbilt-transfer quarterback Mike Wright also made some appearances and carried the ball 5 times for 95 yards, including a 53-yard near touchdown. Wright was used in a Taysom Hill-esque role today. Freshman wide receiver Creed Whittemore took a jet-sweep 53 yards to the house, and one other carry for 4 yards.
For SLU, Harlan Dixon led the team in catches and yards and Jacob Logan scored the only touchdown, as mentioned above. Darius Lewis stepped up and made some plays today for the Lions, including a crazy catch while spun around and falling forward. He hauled in 3 catches for 25 yards overall.
Creed Whittemore and Woody Marks each hauled in 4 catches for 59 yards, with Whittemore’s long being a 33-yard touchdown, and Marks’ 32 yards. Jaden Walley hauled in the other receiving touchdown for the Bulldogs on 2 catches for 9 yards. Lideatrick Griffin was another notable receiver in this game, bringing in 4 passes for 33 yards.
On defense, two Lions tallied double-digit tackles, with Ian Goodly totaling 15 and Herman Christophe IV making 10 stops. Khamron Ford brought down Will Rogers behind the line-of-scrimmage for SLU’s only sack of the game, and led the team with an additional solo tackle in the backfield. For the Bulldogs, Nathaniel Watson led the team in tackles with 8, and recorded 1.5 sacks, collaborating with Jaden Crumedy for one. Mississippi State also blocked an Austin Dunlap punt, with Deonte Anderson getting in for the block and Avery Sledge scooping and scoring.
Overall, SLU figured some things out, such as the quarterback and running back rotations, but will have an uphill battle to beat South Alabama next week in Mobile. Mississippi State will host Arizona in a non-conference Power 5 matchup next Saturday.