By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Geoff Collins wants Mississippi State’s defense to take on his personality, and if Saturday is any indication, that process is well under way.
The Bulldogs held their first full scrimmage of the spring at Davis Wade Stadium, and the defense got the better of the offense. That pleased Collins, who after two years as co-defensive coordinator is now in complete charge of that unit.
Collins has seemingly boundless energy, and that’s rubbed off on the defense, which came out hot Saturday. The first-team offense scored only twice – on a 48-yard field goal and a 40-yard touchdown pass – on its first eight possessions.
“The big thing is they came out with a lot of energy, a lot of juice, and they executed,” Collins said. “I went through every call that we have on defense, and the one defense executed every call. Now some of them they only executed once or twice, but I hit every call with the one defense.
“Wasn’t a lot of busts, wasn’t a lot of mental mistakes, but it was a positive experience.”
The first-team defense was led by Matthew Wells, who had three tackles, two tackles-for-loss, a sack and a pass break-up; cornerback Justin Cox, who had four tackles and a pass break-up; and defensive end Denico Autry, who recorded five tackles.
Redshirt freshman linebacker Beniquez Brown paced the second unit with nine tackles.
“We had everybody playing together,” Collins said. “I don’t know if the same 11 guys played together more than 10 plays. That’s good just to have the multiple looks that we could give, the multiple adjustments, and the guys flew around.”
The offense finally came around during the second half of the scrimmage, with the first team scoring on five of six possessions – all on touchdown passes by Tyler Russell. The senior completed 28 of 40 passes for 307 yards and six TDs on the day.
But neither he nor head coach Dan Mullen were happy with the slow start.
“Offense, everything’s about rhythm,” Russell said. “Those guys count on me to go out there and make passes and the receivers to catch. … It all starts with me, and I’ve just got to do better at starting off strong.”
Russell’s top target was junior slot receiver Jameon Lewis, who continued his strong spring with nine catches for 143 yards and three touchdowns. Josh Robinson paced the run game, gaining 90 yards on 14 carries.
MSU has now held seven of 15 scheduled practices. The Bulldogs plan to scrimmage again Friday, and the annual Maroon-White spring game is set for April 20.