Mississippi State football's Kevin Barbay fulfilled promises, including Tulu Griffin, Mike Wright
COLUMBIA, S.C. — In Mississippi State football’s 37-30 loss at South Carolina on Saturday, those who have listened to first-year offensive coordinator Kevin Barbay throughout the offseason saw promises fulfilled.
Barbay has stressed since he was hired in January needing to get the ball in the hands of his playmakers – specifically wide receiver Lideatrick "Tulu" Griffin. Doing so was an obvious necessity, according to coach Zach Arnett.
“I would assume a guy who is the first team All-American kick returner, who takes all of them back in a bunch of different ways as a kick returner, probably can hit the same seams on offense,” Arnett said. “We play to our strengths. We find a way to get the ball in our most explosive guys’ hands. He’s one of the most explosive guys with the ball in his hands in the country. We try to get it to him in a bunch of different ways. All offenses do that with their personnel.”
Griffin caught seven passes for a single-game program record 256 yards. One of his receptions was a 65-yard score. He also had a nine-yard run.
Through four games, Griffin has caught 20 catches for 388 yards and three touchdowns. He’s already halfway to his mark of 40 catches in 13 games last season and is on pace to surpass his 502 receiving yards.
How Kevin Barbay used Will Rogers
MSU quarterback Will Rogers posted a stat line resembling his time playing in Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense. Rogers threw for a career-high 487 yards while completing 30 of his 48 attempts. Rogers said the numbers are skewed a bit as MSU (2-2, 0-2 SEC) had a pass-heavy finally drive of the first half and had to pass more late in the game while trailing.
Still, it was a strong night for the senior behind center. It was a necessary step forward in a new offense.
Rogers nearly matched the 492 passing yards he had entering the contest. The most passing attempts he had across MSU’s first three games was 29 against FCS foe Southeastern Louisiana in the opener. After perhaps his worst outing as an MSU starter against LSU – 11-of-28 passing for 103 yards – Rogers fielded plenty of criticism. He responded in a strong way.
“I kind of just say off social media,” Rogers said. “I don't really listen to the noise or anything like that. If you're not part of the team or you're not part of the locker room, I try to cut out all that extra noise.”
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Backup quarterback Mike Wright played a season-low three snaps against South Carolina, but his impact on the game was felt. With MSU facing a third down a yard outside the end zone, Wright faked a hand-off to running back Jo’Quavious Marks.
The fake was so clean it led to cheers from South Carolina fans thinking Marks was stuffed for a stop. Instead, Wright was jogging into the end zone behind a block from tight end Malik Ellis.
Barbay has frequently talked about the importance of incorporating packages for Wright. As he did with Griffin, Barbay delivered on that promise at South Carolina.
Stefan Krajisnik is the Mississippi State beat writer for the Clarion Ledger. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on the X platform, formerly known as Twitter, @skrajisnik3.