Report card: How we graded Mississippi State football in win over NC State

Andy Kostka
Mississippi Clarion Ledger

STARKVILLE — From the opening kickoff, Mississippi State football seemed in control.

While the offense's engine sputtered throughout the first quarter, the defense more than made up for it. And once the Bulldogs' offense joined in, Mississippi State pulled away quickly for a 24-10 victory Saturday night at Davis Wade Stadium.

NC State added a garbage time touchdown and recovered an onside kick, but those were footnotes in a game that was otherwise all Mississippi State, giving the Bulldogs a second win to open the season — and this one requiring less late effort than the 20-point comeback against Louisiana Tech.

Here's how we graded Mississippi State.

MISSISSIPPI STATE FOOTBALL:Bulldogs blow past NC State behind a stout defensive performance

Offense: B+

The first quarter was rough, with three straight three-and-out drives to start the game. But quarterback Will Rogers soon hit a groove, throwing for 294 yards while completing 33 of 49 passes. And surrounding Rogers were the strong performances of running back Dillon Johnson (88 all-purpose yards), Jaden Walley (44 yards, one touchdown) and Austin Williams (48 yards).

Defense: A+

Mississippi State’s defense suffocated NC State’s rushing attack, holding a unit that posted 293 yards on the ground against South Florida to 42 yards. And the pass rush on quarterback Devin Leary led to five sacks.

Special teams: B

Lideatrick Griffin’s 100-yard kick return to begin the game set up Mississippi State’s victory. But the unit is marked slightly down because of NC State’s onside kick recovery late in the fourth quarter of a game already well out of reach. Tucker Day had punts of 20 and 30 yards that forced the defense to defend short fields.

Coaching: A

Zach Arnett got his defense spot on against NC State. The Mississippi State defensive coordinator knew the running back duo of Zonovan Knight and Ricky Person — coming off a combined 268 yards against South Florida — could cause issues if not held in check. They were, as the Bulldogs kept the Wolfpack to 42 rushing yards. And coach Mike Leach’s offense found its stride after a meager first quarter.

Overall: A

Mississippi State came out with a bang with Griffin’s kick return, and while the offense took some time to get going, this turned into a runaway performance for the Bulldogs. In Mississippi State’s opener, a dismal second and third quarters meant the team needed the largest comeback in program history. There was no need for one Saturday, given the domination.