HED:Open date a blessing for MSU

CATEGORY: FOC College Football

AUTHOR: PARRIS

HED:Open date a blessing for MSU

By Parrish Alford

Daily Journal

Finding a positive spin after losing 41-6 at LSU was a difficult task, but Mississippi State defensive tackle Kevin Sluder did his best.

Thank goodness for an open date.

Before the sweat had dried in Baton Rouge Saturday MSU players were eager to look ahead. State is off Saturday and travels to Kentucky Nov. 7.

“We’ll take these two weeks, and we’ll lick our wounds and we’ll regroup,” Sluder said.

Mississippi State is 5-2 overall, 3-1 in the Southeastern Conference and can still control its destiny in the Western Division. But wounds licked during this off week stand a chance to be re-opened with solid rushing teams like Alabama and Arkansas remaining on the schedule.

“We can stop the run. We proved that against Auburn,” Sluder said.

State allowed just 95 rushing yards in its 38-21 win over Auburn on Oct. 10, but Auburn continues to rank last in the SEC in rushing.

The Bulldogs have controlled the running games of teams like Memphis, Vanderbilt and East Tennessee State.

However, the two best rushing teams MSU has faced Oklahoma State and LSU have rung up 596 yards and nine touchdowns.

After LSU ran for 236 yards MSU coach Jackie Sherrill indicated changes might be made along the defensive line.

“We can’t expect some of our kids to take on people as much,” he said.

MSU tackles Sluder and John Hilliard each weigh-in at 270, meaning they give away 30 pounds or more to most opposing offensive linemen. It’s even harder for noseguard Kenwoynne Smith, an SEC light-weight at 259 pounds.

Many times against LSU Smith was blocked completely across his area of responsibility.

“Our noseguard was getting blocked all the way across to the C gap instead of taking the B gap. Then he was running himself out of the play at times. We were creating holes up there that we couldn’t compensate for,” Sherrill said.

It’s a different defensive line that State has had in years past. Tackle James Grier and noseguard Eric Dotson tipped the scales at 331 and 350 pounds last year.

Sluder has actually added 55 pounds to come up to 270. He played as a stand-up rush end in high school at 215 pounds.

Backing off his changes statement earlier this week, Sherrill says his defensive line simply needs to play up to its ability.

“We’re not a physical line; we don’t have a dominating player up front,” he said. “When people run right at you that’s evident. Sometimes you can compensate by going east and west, but that puts an awful lot of pressure on your back side.”

Although Kentucky is known for its prolific passing game, State can’t discount the run in Lexington. The Wildcats are averaging 128.5 yards a game behind a veteran offensive line.

“They have two outstanding running backs,” Sherrill said. “They blocked pretty well last year too, but their backs are really good.”