Smith Column: MSU's rushing numbers take a big tumble
By DANNY P. SMITH
It's difficult to win football games when teams can't establish the run.
It's tough to run effectively without having chemistry on the offensive line.
The Mississippi State Bulldogs have found that to be true over the first five games of the season.
At the beginning of the season when MSU had all of its offensive linemen ready to go, it put up some impressive numbers.
The Bulldogs had the most yards of total offense during a two-game span in school history with 1,176 and much of that came on the ground against Memphis and Auburn. Of course, the latter Tigers were much tougher than the first, but that statistic is still good despite the competition.
Chris Relf, Vick Ballard and LaDarius Perkins were all a part of an MSU running game that averaged 321 yards rushing through the first two games and ranked first in the Southeastern Conference.
Then the injury bug hit the offensive line.
First, left tackle James Carmon went down during the Auburn game and center Quentin Saulsberry also got a little banged up. One game later, right guard Tobias Smith was injured in the LSU game and hasn't played since.
With those circumstances popping up, the Bulldogs have started a different offensive line combination the last three games and that's why the rushing production has been cut nearly in half.
MSU has gone from first in the league in rushing offense to fifth with a total of 185.2 yards per game.
In the last three games, the Bulldogs have started Saulsberry, Smith, Blaine Clausell, Gabe Jackson and Addison Lawrence on the offensive line against LSU, Causell, Jackson, Saulsberry, Lawrence and Dillon Day against Louisiana Tech, and Clausell, Jackson, Carmon, Saulsberry and Lawrence against Georgia.
Injuries are a part of the game and MSU clearly isn't using that as an excuse, but it's scrambling to find the right five guys to put along the offensive front.
John Hevesy, the offensive line coach of the Bulldogs, said there's one specific point to emphasize to get his unit to opening the holes necessary to get Relf, Ballard, Perkins and others on track again.
"What we need to get back to and what we need to be is fundamentally sound," Hevesy said.
It's the only way MSU is going to compete and have a chance to win in the tough challenges that remain this season.
Coach Dan Mullen said at his weekly press conference Monday that somehow the Bulldogs need a spark to turn a negative flow to positive.
"When you have a lack of making plays, it will compound on you," Mullen said.
MSU still has games against SEC opponents South Carolina, Kentucky, Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss left on the schedule.
How many of those games can the Bulldogs win? Not very many if they only get 56 yards rushing like they did against Georgia last Saturday.
Danny P. Smith is sports editor and columnist for the Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily News or its staff.
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