Bulldog Football Notebook

CB Johnthan Banks is absolutely after the Mississippi State interceptions record. Today he took two huge steps towards setting the standard with a pair of picks against Auburn. Yet the senior cornerback downplayed his march towards history.

"I ain't worried about the interception record right now," Banks said. "My mind's on Troy."

Maybe so as Banks, and all Bulldogs, do turn attention towards week-three. But they can spend Saturday evening enjoying the thrill of SEC victory over Auburn. And Banks is welcome to think about a continued climb up the career ladder. These were his 13th and 14th career interceptions, leaving him just two shy of tying Walt Harris' (1992-95) record of 16. Banks began the day in a three-way tie for second place, with Derek Pegues (2005-08) and Izell McGill (1994-97) at a dozen apiece. The two-interception day was the third of his career, though the other two came on consecutive weekends in 2009.

Should Banks enjoy another doublet-day he will be tied atop the all-time list. "If I get that record I get it; if I don't I don't. I can live with being second behind Walt Harris. I'm just trying to help my team be the best we can be."

His first pick briefly appeared to be turning into six, as Banks rambled down the right sideline and bowled over a last Tiger at the one-yard line. It would have been his fourth career touchdown return interception and set a State record, which he shares with CB Corey Broomfield for now. But Banks caught the sideline back at the 34-yard line to make it moot.

"I don't know if it was a bad pass, we played great defense. The guys up front got a lot of pressure on the quarterback and we had a guy right there who had a chance to make the play."

Cheering Banks along was his four-year comrade and closest challenger for the interceptions record. S Corey Broomfield has nine picks of his own, though none since 2010. Already this year CB Darius Slay, who took Broomfield's old position so he could move in to safety, has an interception in each win. One, he returned 52 yards for a touchdown against Jackson State. Between them the Bulldog secondary players, corners and safeties, now have 31 combined interceptions.

"Especially in the secondary we want to get the ball," Broomfield said. "We give ourselves credit for getting the ball and that's what we've been doing lately."

LIVING ON THE EDGE: While he enjoyed the stout pass coverage by his corners, Coach Melvin Smith was probably prouder of something else. They didn't give up big outside breaks, something Auburn in particular has hurt State with since 2009. The longest Tiger tote was 12 yards by Tre Mason.

At last, Broomfield said. "One thing they like to do, they like to get to the edge. Since I've been here Coach Smith has been cussing us out when people get around the edge. I said the other day do not let these guys get around the edge. Matt Wells, Deontea Skinner, everybody did a great job."

GREEN LIGHT: TE Marcus Green was all-smiles after opening his sixth season at State with a two-catch and one-touchdown game against Jackson State. The special-case senior might have been about to split his face following a two-touchdown afternoon in SEC play. No one knows for sure as Green exited the stadium quickly, before requested interviews.

Others spoke well for him after Green scored on catches of 30 and three yards for the first two-touchdown day of his extended career. He had two more catches and a total of 54 yards.

"I'm happy to have Marcus back," said QB Tyler Russell in obvious understatement, having tossed three touchdowns to the tight end already this short season. "He's an older guy and he knows what to expect. I can count on him being in the right spot and the right time."

Thing is, on State's first drive of the day Green was in the right spot at the right time when Russell delivered on-target…and the ball was simply dropped. State had to settle for a missed field goal kick just when they looked so sharp to begin.

Coach Dan Mullen might have had a little talk with another receiver after an unforced error. Not with Green. "I didn't say anything because I guess I wouldn't have had very motivational words to say at that point! But I guess as an older guy he understands so I kept my mouth shut. And it worked out for the best."

Green already has as many touchdowns in two games this year as he did all of 2009 when he caught 27 balls with three scores in a dozen games.

NAMING RIGHTS: Tobias Smith is not married, much less a father. But the senior guard is apparently making some long-term plans that the future Mrs. Smith needs to know. How much does he appreciate a couple of his offensive line mates?

"I'm going to name my first two sons Dillon and Gabe," Smith boasted of OC Day and OG Jackson. "We're a pretty tight unit and I love these boys."

KICKING AROUND AND AWRY: The head coach did admit there will be some sort of talking-to Saturday evening about a glaring, unproductive aspect of the win. "Our offensive staff and defensive staff both did a great job. I've got to get on that special teams coach a little bit because he didn't do very good today."

That would of course be Mullen himself. He was upset, naturally about three big breakdowns. Twice freshman PK Devon Bell did not convert field goal opportunities. He drilled a 36-yarder wide left, then was so low on a 46-yarder it was blocked. Bell did convert all four PATs fortunately, and did not share the duty as was the case last week.

More dangerous to the Dogs was a missed coverage or two in kickoff, as Auburn ran back The Opening chance of the second half end zone-to-end zone untouched. Review did show a blatant hold of LB Cameron Lawrence, dragging him out of his assigned spot…which is exactly where Onterrio McCaleb broke through. It gave the Tigers a thankfully-brief 10-7 lead and obviously the only touchdown surrendered by State.

Correct those gaffes and the Dogs theoretically win 34-3, at least. Not that Mullen cares about margins; it is having such mistakes made in any SEC game. Next time the Bulldogs might not be able to afford errors. Thus the ‘kicking coach confab' at the Mullen residence.

"So I'll meet with him later tonight in a quiet room somewhere and start yelling at him! I'll go sit in a quiet place in my house and scream at myself."

PERKING UP: Notch rushing touchdown #3 of the year for LaDarius Perkins, matching his 2010 total already in just two games and exceeding last year's pair of scores. This 21-yard scamper showed what those added off-season pounds and muscle have done for Perk, as he broke two tackles outright before putting moves on remaining Tigers.

Though, Perkins had to leap at the left pylon at the end with a defensive back arriving at the goal line at the same time. "I knew I'd scored. I made sure my arm was in there," he said. Which was why Perkins was surprised when he heard the head ref signal a review of the scoring play.

"When I saw the review, them rewind, I was like…?" Perkins said. He was surprised, but not concerned. "I knew I had scored so I wasn't too worried about it." And indeed the touchdown stood.

What had observers buzzing was Perkins' knack of making gains right through the middle of Auburn's defense, where a pair of 300-pounders set up. Yet this was the plan all along. "We knew we could run the ball on them. The main thing we were concerned about was their defensive ends, they're big and athletic." But also obsessed with pass-rushing, leaving two fewer folk to block.

So starting early, and emphasizing most in the third period, State's blocking would flow one way and Perkins make a subtle cut against the grain through one of the vacated defensive tackle slots. That way he averaged 5.9 yards on 14 rushes.

LEAGUE LEADER: Just two weeks and one conference game into the season, and Dan Mullen couldn't resist looking at the big picture after opening with a Division victory at last.

"It feels great. As of right this second we're first place in the SEC West, I don't know if that's happened for quite a while at Mississippi State. We'll take it."

Point of fact it has not happened in a very long time, since 1999 in fact. That was the last year State won a SEC opener of any sort. The went on to take five-straight before a pair of road losses denied those Dogs a repeat of the 1998 Western Division title.

Mullen has downplayed questions about lack of Division success beyond dominating arch-rival Ole Miss his three years. But the coach couldn't resist a little counter comment of sorts. "I guess the monkey is off my back now…or no? I view it as a bigger one just jumped on, and I hope in November we're talking about a 800 pound gorilla jumping on my back. That's what I want for our program."

PRIME TIME? Mullen also would not mind his program returning to the polls for the first time since last September. Monday's polls will show how impressed voters are with a 2-0 start and dominating SEC debut.

Lawrence is convinced the win will restore State's national name. "It's huge for us. Hopefully we made a statement for the rest of the country. I know everybody is going to be watching film on us and what they saw is just the beginning."


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