Kines Respects MSU Offense

On the practice field this week Alabama Defensive Coordinator Joe Kines will focus his defense physically on stopping the scout-team versions of Mississippi State running back Jerious Norwood and quarterback Omar Conner.

But Kines is also trying to keep his team focused mentally, by not having a letdown following an open week, and not being distracted or feeling a sense of entitlement for having nation's top-rated defense.

"The thing we're going to try to do for three more weeks, is start today and see if we can get better today," Kines said Tuesday. "We've been on that theme all year and we're not about to leave that ol' gal now."

"With every plus there's a minus," he said when asked about the effects of the off-week. "The plus is you got rested up, the minus is you haven't tackled anybody full speed in 10-12 days. (Norwood) certainly make you miss. He is a great open filed runner, and once you get him in the secondary it's hard to get him corralled up."

Norwood is certainly Mississippi State's most threatening offensive player. He has gained 540 yards rushing during the past three weeks against Kentucky, Florida and UAB, and is averaging 102 yards per game, third-best in the Southeastern Conference.

Norwood had 201 rushing yards against UAB three weeks ago, 174 against Florida two weeks ago, and 165 against Kentucky last week.

"When you look at their offense you best appreciate it when you put the tapes in order and look at it from the first of the year until now," Kines said. "What you see is a real steady resolve on their part to get better. They kind of found themselves in the last couple of weeks as far as what their people can do and it's made all the difference in the world. They've settled down in to a really strong running package."

Complementing the running package is Omar Conner, who missed games against UAB and Vanderbilt with an injury. His return to the lineup sparked the Bulldogs' two-game SEC winning streak.

Conner had 50 rushing yards and 158 passing yards, leading his team to a win over Florida. Conner had one rushing and one passing touchdown, and did not throw an interception in the game. Against Kentucky Conner had similar dual-threat numbers, with 57 rushing yards and 79 passing, but he threw two interceptions in the win.

"The thing he adds to their offense is when he goes back, he's got the ability to scramble out and find a receiver or to scramble out and run," Kines said. "They get him on the corner with a run-pass option and he's hard to deal with. He's a great athlete. He's got running back skills and he's hard to tackle. He's left a lot of them standing flat-footed.

In Conner's absence against Vanderbilt, Mississippi State quarterbacks threw four interceptions in 36 attempts. But Conner has been erratic at times also, throwing three interceptions against LSU and two against Kentucky.

State has had success moving the ball in the past two weeks' wins over the Gators and the Wildcats, but with Alabama allowing a nation-leading 222 yards per game, the challenge to MSU is different. Florida and Kentucky rank 8th and 9th in the SEC in total defense, allowing 359 and 393 yards per game, respectively. But the Bulldogs have earned Kines' respect.

They've certainly had a good plan, the best thing about it is that they've stuck to their plan and as a result have turned into a pretty good little offensive team here in the last couple of weeks," he said. "And the Florida game was no fluke. They didn't do it on one play. They got the lead early kept it the whole game and just kept pounding on them and did a nice job with it."

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