During practices, Mississippi State offensive coordinator Les Koenning has a stopwatch to time how long Russell stays in the pocket before making a throw or bailing. That work has produced good results on game day, and it helped Russell stay poised in last week’s 38-7 loss to Alabama.
Russell was 15 of 30 for 169 yards and took just one sack despite absorbing several hits.
“I bring the stopwatch out with me to practice,” Koenning said, “and I make sure those things are out, and I’ll let him know, so he understands – I’m slow, I’m early, I’m slow, I’m early. Get the feel of the routes.”
Russell was at his sharpest on a 16-play, 97-yard drive in the third quarter. He completed 7 of 9 passes for 85 yards, taking MSU from its own 2-yard line to Alabama’s 1.
He was intercepted in the end zone, but aside from that, Russell showed what he’s capable of when he’s at his best. The fact that he kept delivering strong throws despite taking so many hits impressed offensive line coach John Hevesy.
“Unlike some guys I’ve seen, he’s not going to throw it away or duck and eat it,” Hevesy said. “He’s going to stand there and throw a bullet and then brace for the giant hit coming his way. I’ve seen a lot of quarterbacks take a dive, and Tyler has a set on him to throw the ball like he does at times.”
MSU’s secondary had some uncharacteristic breakdowns in the loss to Alabama.
The most noticeable miscue came on a 57-yard touchdown pass from A.J. McCarron to Kenny Bell in the first quarter. It looked initially like All-American cornerback Johnthan Banks was beaten on the play, but it wasn’t all on him.
Banks was trying to undercut Bell’s route, thinking there was safety help over the top from senior Corey Broomfield. Help never came.
“We were trying to what we call rock-and-roll our coverages off of what they were doing,” defensive coordinator Chris Wilson said. “Corey, it just didn’t happen. I didn’t coach it well enough, and they didn’t get it executed well enough.”
Banks makes cut
Banks has been named a semifinalist for two major awards.
The senior made the cut for the Bednarik and Thorpe Awards, it was announced Monday.
The Bednarik Award, which named 16 semifinalists, goes to the country’s most outstanding defensive player. The Thorpe Award, which trimmed its list to 15, goes to the top defensive back.
Banks has 37 tackles, four interceptions and five pass break-ups this season. He has 16 career interceptions, tied for the school record.