OPINION: Bulldogs’ defense will surely get its mettle tested

STARKVILLE – After Auburn shredded Mississippi State’s defense as well as its confidence on Sept. 5, Jamar Chaney made a promise – an unbreakable vow, if you will.
He promised that the Bulldogs’ defense would never again be so thoroughly dominated and humiliated. After that game, Chaney told coach Dan Mullen, “That’s never happened to me at any time in my football career.”
He’s right, it hasn’t. The last time an opposing offense had such a field day against MSU was 2004, when LSU gained 599 yards in a 51-0 beatdown. That was the year before Chaney, a senior middle linebacker, arrived in Starkville.
Chaney wasn’t the only one who vowed to buckle down. The whole defense did.
“The seniors and the guys that are experienced, I think they took it personal,” Mullen said.
Oh, they did.
This is a defense that Mullen himself said would have to carry the Bulldogs as his spread option offense is installed for a group that, truthfully, isn’t currently equipped to wield it effectively, and probably won’t be this season.
So when the defense was torched on the Plains, there was a bit of panic among fans, understandably so. But MSU’s defense is too good not to bounce back from that setback and get better.
Now, they just have to be men of their word. Talk is cheap, but it can be powerful, too. Promises get broken a lot these days, and oftentimes promises are made that simply can’t be kept.
The question is not whether MSU’s defensive players will try to keep their promise, but whether they’re able.
There are still teams like Houston, Georgia Tech, Florida, Arkansas and Ole Miss on the schedule, all with their own particular offensive strengths. Few would be shocked if some or all of those teams have good days against the MSU defense.
– Houston ranks fifth in the country in total offense, and we all saw what the Cougars did to Oklahoma State.
– Georgia Tech’s triple option offense flummoxed MSU last year in a 38-7 win.
– Florida needs no introduction.
– Arkansas as the nation’s second most productive offense.
– Ole Miss has Jevan Snead, Dexter McCluster, et al., a group that lit up MSU in last year’s Egg Bowl to the tune of 461 yards. Not quite what Auburn did, but not pretty.
That’s a tall order, which makes the defense’s promise a tough one to keep. I’m sure Chaney and the rest of them are well aware of that. Of course, the harder a promise is to keep, the more it means.
For MSU, keeping this promise could mean the difference between winning and losing.

Brad Locke (brad.locke@djournal.com) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal and blogs daily at NEMS360.com.

Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

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