With the best QB in program history now starting for the Cowboys, who would step in to the leadership vacuum? The opener against a weaker opponent was supposed to be the perfect venue for someone, anyone, to at least partially fill that void. Will the real MSU QB please stand up? Everyone remained seated. Saturday’s embarrassing loss to South Alabama put on display an offense that had no identity or leader at the game’s most important position, QB. As much as they’ll not want to admit it, fans knew this was coming.
All spring and fall camp there was a 2-man battle for the QB position. Let’s not kid ourselves, Nick Tiano was never a serious contender with his lack of experience. He was competing with a huge handicap, especially the way this MSU staff rewards playing time. The marquee match-up was Nick Fitzgerald vs Damian Williams. Fitzgerald was a lightly recruited prospect who had a MTSU offer besides MSU. Damian Williams had a better offer sheet but the reality is that he was committed to USM and was a back-up plan for MSU who flipped him late in the process. The sobering reality is that MSU’s starting QB battle coming off the Dak Prescott era was 2 guys who didn’t have power 5 options if it wasn’t for MSU.
What most fans wanted to hear was that Fitzgerald had taken control of the job. While he wasn’t highly sought after as a prospect, he does have some tools that give him a higher ceiling than Williams. All he had to do was mature and execute and the job was his. That never really happened. No one could win the job with exemplary play. Mullen said as much in numerous interviews. Mullen wanted a guy to take control, be a leader, and never got his wish. If you paid attention to earlier happenings with these two QBs, that wouldn’t have surprised you.
The first tell-tale sign that there was a major lack of leadership was a beef that started over beard jokes. Yes, you read that correctly. If you remember back to SEC media days, Bob Carskadon of HailState.com wrote about AJ Jefferson’s beard. It was a topic of conversation. Richie Brown’s beard has its own twitter account. This MSU team has gotten more beard pub that any sports team in my memory. That led to Carskadon writing a light-hearted, joke piece breaking down the facial hair of all the MSU football players in July. What should have been a cheeky, space-filler turned into a melodrama more suited for Keeping Up With the Kardashians than MSU football.
It started with a text I received, “Bob is about to get run out of the football complex.” I asked why. What the hell could Bob do? Even though I don’t really know Bob besides shaking hands at a wedding, I know enough to know he’s not a guy that’s going to get heavy with anyone. He’s a small guy who is really friendly and everybody seems to like except the football team at that moment. I hear back that he wrote a story about beards and so I read the story and thought, you have to be kidding me. Our guys are really mad about this? If they lose it over something as dumb and playful as this piece, how can they be expected to handle crucial moments in games that are highly pressurized?
In today’s day and age you know it wasn’t going to be long before this dumb beef made its way to social media. It didn’t and guess who two of the ringleaders were? You guessed it: Damian Williams and Nick Fitzgerald. Williams was upset over a joke that his beard looked like Dragon Ball Z. Fitzgerald wasn’t mentioned in the article but still felt this need to jump in. It was embarrassing to watch this unfold on social media. It was an immature, cry-baby reaction to put out for public consumption. Would Dak Prescott had done this? Would Tyler Russell act like that? Would Chris Relf have given 1 iota of a damn about that article? That was the first peak at the emotional make-up of this team and the two vying to lead it.
One thing that you can’t help but notice in that ordeal was who wasn’t involved in that publicly. I didn’t see AJ Jefferson, Richie Brown, Torrey Dale, or Leo Lewis. It looks liked the mature leadership of the defense stayed out of that nonsense. You know who else was mentioned in that article and didn’t make a big deal of it? Nick Tiano.
As I sit looking at this QB battle from the point of view that includes a loss that is hard to fathom, it makes more sense if I look backwards. The offense’s play Saturday makes much more sense when you take in to account that no one could win the QB job and get any semblance of chemistry going. It makes more sense when you see them acting immature on social media. You have an offense with no identity, no chemistry, and no leader. There is no doubt hindsight is 20-20 but the context hindsight gives you often tells you what happened.
I bring all this up because it all ties in to the MSU football reality at this exact moment. You’re 0-1 with the worst RPI loss in college football the last 5 years. You scored 20 points against the 83rd ranked defense in college football last year who lost their entire starting defensive line before the game. Now there is an SEC opponent who won their first game against an opponent better than USA. The stats on SEC teams that lose to a non power 5 opponent and still make a bowl aren’t good. The only way MSU scrapes any respect out of this season is to turn it around now and that will take large doses of mature leadership from the most important position on the field. MSU fans are hoping this was the wake-up call that fixes the leadership issue but past actions doesn’t give anyone much confidence. It’s hard to grow up overnight.
Follow on twitter @3rdAnd57
Contact me at 3rdAnd57@gmail.com