Following Mississippi State's 30-17 loss on Saturday at Texas A&M, the biggest questions weren't always about what MSU needed to do offensively and defensively moving forward. The biggest question was how healthy the team was following the brutal four-quarter game.
Bulldog coaches were likely holding their breath with every snap as play after play saw a key contributor go down with some sort of injury. The first and most serious injury came to senior safety Kendrick Market in the first half.
Market went down without any contact, always a bad sign of a possible knee injury. Head coach Dan Mullen confirmed the worst on Monday at his weekly press conference.
The Batesville native tore his ACL on Saturday and Mullen said that his career as a Bulldog was done. Following a long recovery after a torn Achilles in the Egg Bowl a year ago, Market was one of the leading tacklers in the first five games despite sitting out due to injury two weeks ago against Northwestern State. He finished the year with 23 tackles in four games.
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"Unfortunately that was probably the last play of his career," Mullen said. "(Market) is an amazing young man. He's 5'8, 195 and probably runs a 4.7 40-yard dash and has made an impact in the Southeastern Conference which shows you the type of young man that he is and how successful he's going to be the rest of his life."
Along with Market, wide receivers Joe Morrow and Gabe Myles went down with a shoulder and ankle injury respectively. Cornerback Will Redmond and left tackle Rufus Warren were injured in the second half.
Tight end Gus Walley hurt his hand in practice last week and was unable to play at Texas A&M. All five players didn't practice on Sunday and are listed as questionable though Mullen noted the trainers felt like their injuries were non-severe and they should be able to play in the coming weeks.
Myles was seen on crutches leaving the Leo Seal Jr. Complex on Monday, however.
Regardless of the injuries, Mullen feels like this group is well equipped to have the next man step up. It's come a long way since he first arrived in Starkville.
"In the short term, the next guy will step up. Kendrick might be the best football player on our team in what he does. He might not be the most talented player out there but what he brings to the defense, that's a huge loss for us right there," Mullen said. "How we've built the program with some depth, when you do have an injury come up the drop-off in talent is not going to be as big as it was six years ago."
Redshirt freshman Brandon Bryant will step into the role where Market was, likely, and has already been making an impact with 18 tackles, two pass breakups and 0.5 sacks this year. True freshmen Jamal Peters and Mark McLaurin will also see their roles increase.
As a whole, the next four ball games are crucial for MSU. The Bulldogs host two non conference teams in Troy and Louisiana Tech before welcoming Kentucky and going on the road against Missouri.
While all present their challenges, the stretch is not nearly as brutal as the first part of the schedule.
"Three of the first five games on the road is obviously a tough way to start off," Mullen said. "I thought our guys have battled and we've improved a little bit from week to week."