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Joe Moorhead comments on controversial officiating in Mississippi State’s loss to Alabama

Mississippi State played Alabama as closely as any team this season, even with a few questionable calls going against the Bulldogs.

The first one came early in the game when Crimson Tide running back Damien Harris appeared to fumble before being ruled down. But Alabama was allowed to maintain possession on its side of midfield without a review.

Another controversial call occurred in the final minute of the first half with Mississippi State down 21-0. Kylin Hill’s touchdown reception was erased by a highly questionable block in the back, and the Bulldogs’ drive ultimately ended with a missed field goal.

The Crimson Tide held on for a 24-0 victory, though the SEC office is reviewing the game’s officiating. Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead spent a solid portion of his appearance on Wednesday’s SEC Coaches Teleconference discussing the officiating, taking a mostly neutral stance on the subject.

He also previewed this weekend’s game between No. 21 Mississippi State (6-4, 2-4 SEC) and Arkansas (2-8, 0-6) at noon ET on Saturday in Starkville. Below are all of Moorhead’s responses from the teleconference.

On the Mississippi State program he inherited:

  • When you take over, it’s one of two things: Either they were let go or did very well. Dan did a very good job here and won a lot of games.

How do round out the passing game?

  • More consistency. There were a few games we haven’t thrown the ball at all. I think what we are asking the kids is much different than what they were asked to do before. … To win big, you have to run and throw the ball.

On Arkansas:

  • If you look at the LSU game, they needed to have the ball at the end to hold them off. They fought Texas A&M down to the wire. They are competitive in the SEC against teams that have achieved a lot. I think Coach (Chad) Morris and his staff have done a great job getting these guys ready.

Is the SEC the best conference?

  • That’s hard for me to gauge as I don’t watch much football outside of our league. But I think that would be a tough thing to debate. You look at what Alabama is doing and the teams that are battling it out below them.

On the block-in-the-back call against Alabama, how do you prevent yourself from being upset about that?

  • I think ultimately what we preach to our players is to control the controllable. The calls are out of our hands. In a game like that, we are looking for a glimmer of hope. That touchdown would have given us hope. … The fumble on the first drive (that wasn’t called) would have given us the ball on the plus side of the field. That would have given us some hope.

Are you satisfied with how the SEC handles these things?

  • In the 10 weeks I’ve been here, it’s been a fairly thorough and complete process.

Have you reviewed any steps you could have done to help the refs on a play like that fumble?

  • Well, we could have challenged. We know that every play is challenged. You hope it doesn’t come back to you to have to do that.

Do you have a coach that lets you know if you should challenge?

  • We have coaches in the booth that help us out, but there is a delay that doesn’t help.

How impressed are you with the development of your defense?

  • Jeffery (Simmons) and Montez (Sweat) get a ton of praise, but the rest of those guys, we have eight to 10 guys up front that allow Jeffery and Montez to stay fresh.

On the Arkansas run game:

  • Coach Morris and Coach (Joe) Craddock have done well this year and they have great balance. They move in the pocket, which helps the run game. They play great complementary football. If you key on any one thing, they use something else to get you.

On Arkansas TE Cheyenne O’Grady

  • He’s a mismatch guy. If he’s on a linebacker, he can cause separation. He will warrant a lot of attention from our defense.

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