Every year, Mississippi State football fans anticipate a playoff-caliber season after winning the first two games of the year against non-conference opponents. In the first game of the season, the Bulldogs slaughtered the Lions of Southeastern Louisiana 48-7 to develop the notion that it may be State’s year. Being in the SEC (Southeastern Conference), you never know until you face that first SEC opponent. Sure, you can gauge how good a football program will be by these substantial victories, but no one knows for sure until that first conference matchup is played.
Nominated for the 2023 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Watch List at the beginning of the season, State fans thought that starting quarterback Will Rogers would produce the same numbers this season as he did under late head coach Mike Leach’s air raid offense. Before the 2023 season was underway, the Bulldogs desperately needed a new head coach and offensive coordinator, as Leach occupied both roles during the 2022 season. State ultimately decided to promote current defensive coordinator Zach Arnett to fill Leach’s position; however, the offensive coordinator spot remained vacant. The Bulldogs searched for who would best fit in with the already-established air raid offense. The Bulldogs decided to go with then-Appalachian State offensive coordinator Kevin Barbay. Barbay averaged just over 448 yards of offense per game in two seasons with the Mountaineers. Perhaps the air raid could live on.
Quarterback Will Rogers dreamed of playing football for the University of Mississippi as his dad and grandfather attended there. Growing up in Brandon, MS, he saw the success of many football talents come from there. Most recently, Gardner Minshew has been a backup and a starting quarterback in the NFL since he was drafted in 2019. Rogers had a decision to make. Would he be able to play where his football dreams rested? After not receiving an offer from his dream university, Rogers decided to play for the rival school at Mississippi State University, and the rest is history.
With Rogers holding every quarterback statistical record except for one, he was the sure-fire pick to start during the 2023 season. So far, fans have become disappointed in Rogers’ performance. In the 48-7 victory in the season opener, Rogers threw for 227 yards on 20-29 passing for two touchdowns. This isn’t the same Rogers we saw in Leach’s air raid offense. With the team scoring 48 points, you would think Rogers’ stats would have been much more inflated than they were. Fans gave him the benefit of the doubt. He’s in a new offense now, and it’s just the season's first game. It’s going to be okay.
During the second game of this season, Will Rogers struggled. The air-raider threw for an uncharacteristic 162 yards on 13-17 passing for three touchdowns. During the 2022 season, Rogers did not throw for less than 200 yards in a single game all year. Fans were tired of Rogers not performing at the level we’re used to seeing him perform; however, one more chance was granted simply because the next game would determine it all. If he failed to perform during the season's first conference game, fans would start looking at backup Mike Wright to fill the starting position.
Before transferring to State, Mike Wright saw little success at Vanderbilt, where he played the first three seasons of his collegiate career. In his three-year tenure at Vanderbilt, Wright threw for 2,067 yards on 184-333 passing for 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He also ran for 905 yards and scored seven times. He didn’t like being in a place where he couldn’t see success. With the new transfer portal rules, Wright took advantage. He found his second SEC home in none other than Stark Vegas, looking to take on that starting role.
During State’s first SEC matchup, Will Rogers continued to start for the Bulldogs. Fans are tired of seeing Rogers fail to do his job, so they give him another chance. After that, fans want to see Wright in action. LSU came to Starkville to see what the Bulldogs had in them. Would this be a game of dog and cat or cat and mouse (LSU being the cat in both scenarios)? With Rogers behind center, it was his time to shine. Surely, we’d see those 400-yard performances he threw for multiple times in the 2022 season. The Bulldogs would become 3-0 and beat the #12 ranked team in the country. Contrary to this belief, Rogers inevitably was unsuccessful. He threw for 103 yards on 11-28 passing for 0 touchdowns. The Bulldogs went on to lose 41-14 against the first SEC matchup of the season. When fans saw this disheartening result, they looked towards one person: Mike Wright.
Is it time for State to finally put in Wright, or will they try and keep Rogers in so that he can possibly steal Aaron Murray’s record for the most passing yards in SEC history? We know what the fans want. They want Wright, but is Wright the right answer? Rogers was so used to the air raid offense that that’s where he has only found success. With the new offense, Mike Wright could be the answer to lead this struggling Bulldog team. So why do the Bulldogs continue to go with the wrong answer and not the right one? There’s only one answer to this equation: the Wright answer. Give me Wright.
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