Mississippi State’s beat writer suggests to Seth Emerson that the Bulldogs’ struggles on defense are largely personnel related:
4. Does the Mississippi State defense miss Manny Diaz’s playcalling? If not, what else ails their defense, especially against the run?
Marcello: I know a lot of folks are complaining, but Chris Wilson’s defense is very similar to Diaz’s scheme. The Bulldogs are missing three NFL players more than anything. All three starting linebackers (two now in the NFL) and defensive end Pernell McPhee (now sacking quarterbacks for the Balitimore Ravens) are gone from last season’s team. McPhee commanded attention, often drawing double teams that allowed inside guys like Josh Boyd and Fletcher Cox to apply pressure in the middle of the field. State simply does not have that luxury this season and they’re trying to figure things out…
Brophy notes that Wilson pulled a trick or two out of his sleeve at crunch time against Louisiana Tech.
… On the final interception, needing to inch closer to convert the downs (5 yards), likely because of the inconsistent short-yardage production from the banged up Lennon Creer, Tech opts for Y Cross isolating standout receiver, Quinton Patton, in the boundary with a double outlet underneath to the field. Mississippi State presses the line of scrimmage showing press cover 1, essentially baiting Isham to throw the 1-on-1 with Patton. At the snap, MSU bails out to cover 3, Patton’s cornerback retreats deep with deep help from the free safety in the end zone. Because MSU disguised this so well (discouraging the run with 7 defenders versus the 5 blockers), it was too late for Isham to recognize the Hi-Lo on the lone MSU linebacker to the field.
Still, that was crunch time against Louisiana Tech. There’s something a bit comforting about MSU getting pushed to the limit by Tony Franklin and a 17-year old quarterback.
Georgia won’t be running anything like Franklin’s offense, but there are still a couple of lessons to be taken from the Tech game. First, Louisiana Tech kept Mississippi State’s defense on its heels with a short controlled passing game (Isham was 29-40 passing, but averaged less than six yards per passing attempt). Second, as Brophy mentions, LT couldn’t rely on its run game to pick up first downs in short yardage situations. That allowed Wilson to be creative with his play call on the last interception.
The Dawgs need to do two things on offense against the Dogs this Saturday. Make them respect the run. And make them fear the tight end.