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Costello Stars in Debut

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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What happened Saturday in Baton Rouge was unbelievable. Unrealistic, even.

There's so much to this statement, it needs to be broken up individually amongst its merits: Mississippi State quarterback K.J. Costello threw for 623 yards. And five touchdowns. While completing 60% of his passes. And averaging over ten yards per throw. In a win over the defending national champion LSU Tigers. In their home stadium. In his first-ever game with new head coach Mike Leach and the Bulldogs.

What happened Saturday in Baton Rouge was unbelievable. Unrealistic, even.

Costello broke Dak Prescott's program record of 508 passing yards, Eric Zeier's league record of 544 yards and, with 623 yards through the air, finished with the 11th highest total in NCAA history. All of this was accomplished in Costello's Mississippi State and SEC debut. His first game. All of it came against a team that had not lost since November of 2018. LSU had not allowed over 420 yards passing in a single game over the last six seasons; Costello passed that mark by nearly 200 yards.

This past year, Joe Burrow arguably had the best passing season in college football history. He didn't top 500 yards once. Neither did Tua Tagovailoa. While those iconic names didn't throw it as much as Costello has and will, such a frame of reference at least offers some context for what Costello just did. Remember; this is just the beginning. One game. In terms of his proficiency, there still may be marked improvement on the horizon for Costello as he gets more comfortable in the scheme and develops more chemistry with his playmakers.

In Saturday's contest, Costello threw two interceptions and lost a fumble. Without the turnovers, what could his production have looked like?

Leach-coached teams throw the football and throw it more, and often better, than anyone else. His offenses have slotted no worse than fourth in the country in passing each of the last eight years, ranking first four times in that span. Obviously Mississippi State is well out in front this fall. With Costello distrubuting the football to playmakers like Osirus Mitchell, JaVonta Payton and star Kylin Hill, an All-SEC running back who just caught eight passes for 158 yards and a score, this could be Leach's most productive season to date.

Already with a win over the defending champions, the Bulldogs still have games against four nationally-ranked opponents: Texas A&M, Alabama, Auburn and Georgia. It goes without saying that Mississippi State has the SEC's attention. The same can be said for all of college football, too.

Not only does this offense have a track record, it's on that path and in an all-out sprint.

Over 20 years after Leach, with 1999 number one overall NFL Draft pick Tim Couch, shook up the SEC as the offensive coordinator at Kentucky, he, one game in as a league head coach, is doing the same at Mississippi State. Records were set in week one. A champion was dethroned. Who knows what more is to come. Clearly, this is a talented and confident football team. One that already appears to be in rhythm.

A former Stanford quarterback, Costello's first SEC game came with the most passing yards the league has ever seen. That momentum has Mississippi State positioned as one of college football's most fascinating and impressive teams.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports