Mississippi State has not had a great pass rush this season. Part of that’s because there haven’t been a ton of blitzes dialed up, and part of it’s because the defensive line hasn’t been able to generate much pressure on its own.
On the season, MSU has recorded 13 sacks, or 1.63 per game. That ranks 13th in the SEC, 77th in the country. The Bulldogs are on pace to record 19.5 sacks in the regular season, which would be their lowest total since getting just 15 in 2009. Coaches talk all the time about the importance of negative plays, and State just isn’t getting that many.
That hasn’t been a huge problem yet. But it could become one. On the bright side, the sack totals have trended upward the last couple of weeks.
After recording just eight sacks through the first six games (1.33/game), MSU has made five over the last two games (2.5/game). Small sample size, to be sure, but it’s an encouraging sign. Linebacker Cam Lawrence has a sack in each of the last two games and owns three on the year. Redshirt freshman middle linebacker Benardrick McKinney, who’s been very impressive this season, also had a nice sack on Saturday, dropping Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron for a 13-yard loss.
How are the sacks divvied up this season? Glad you asked. The defensive line actually has recorded 7.5 of the 13 sacks, but there’s just not been much consistency there. The team’s leading sacker is still Preston Smith (3.5), a sophomore backup who looks very promising, but who is still a sophomore backup. Juco transfer Denico Autry has just a pair of sacks, although his level of play seems to have gone up recently.
Let me put the stat in this perspective: MSU has recorded 13 sacks vs. 12 interceptions. Every other team in the league, save Tennessee (12-10), has at least five more sacks than pickoffs.