Mississippi State scrimmaged for just over two hours this morning, and it was dominated by the defense. The D made three interceptions and eight “sacks” (QBs in red, of course), and cornerback Damein Anderson returned a fumble 80 yards for a touchdown.
“Defense won, not even close today,” coach Dan Mullen said. “I was happy with our defense, came out and played hard. At the end right there, I think we called out the score, and they were up big, and I think at the end they kind of slacked off a little bit, the offense got to punch a couple in.”
The offense did score four TDs late, but all in first-and-goal situations from the 5-yard line. Nevertheless, the defense wasn’t happy with the finish. “For a good defense, you’ve got to shut them down,” linebacker Jamar Chaney said. “When you’ve got them down, you’ve got to keep them down, and we didn’t do that today.”
The offense scored only two other touchdowns otherwise – a 12-yard pass from Tyson Lee to Delmon Robinson (drive started at defense’s 40), and a 25-yard run by Anthony Dixon (started at defense’s 25). Lee finished 9-for-19 for 91 yards and one interception (by safety Zach Smith), while backup Chris Relf was 5-for-18 for 29 yards and picked twice (by linebackers Bo Walters and Jamie Jones). He had no TD passes.
“I’m real disappointed with the offense’s performance today, right from front to back,” Mullen said. “The offensive line has been working solid, they were just turning guys free in protection today, going the wrong way.” So why the struggles? Said Lee, “I think right now we’re trying to learn it and make it second nature, but we’re trying to think too much. When it’s not second nature, you can’t really think and then make a play.”
Some more thoughts from Mullen and his players, starting with Mullen:
• On the defense deflecting several passes, getting pressure: “The defense did a real good job of that stuff today. They did a good job getting some pressure, really the first half saw us getting some real good pressure on the quarterback.”
• “I thought our backs ran hard, but you just see the obvious lack of playmakers. We just need to get some playmakers here.”
• On not playing in the first-and-goal situations: “I kind of wish I was up in there at the end to help my team, that was kind of depressing. But they called it a defensive win, so we’ve got to go with that. He’s the boss.”
• On his 25-yard TD run, during which he hurdled two defenders: “I was just reading my defenders. I’ve been playing running back for a minute, so I know when they get in that little squat stance, they’re trying to get that little angle at my knees, they’re trying to cut me. That was just me using my technique, that’s all it was, and getting in the end zone.”
From linebacker K.J. Wright:
• On depth at LB: “One thing we do have is depth. We’re trying to get the buys behind us more competition. The guys behind you get you better, that’s what we’ve got in that linebacking group.”
• On juco transfer Chris White: “He’s learning, he’s starting at Will (weakside), he’s playing real good so far.”
• On learning the offense: “I think it’s just totally opposite from what a lot of guys are used to. I think it’s a blessing I went to junior college and I ran somewhat of a spread offense. Guys that have been in the I (formation) or been in something like that, it’s a total change to the spread offense.”