Perkins Keeping The Offense Well Grounded

Most of his road trip memories are general, even from first visits to such fabled SEC venues as Tiger Stadium. One 2010 image surely stands out for LaDarius Perkins though. That big cat named Mike. "I remember seeing the tiger. He's a big tiger! It was different, it didn't scare me or anything but it's different. You don't expect to see a tiger when you walk out of the locker room."

No, not normally. Then again when Perkins exits Mississippi State's corner of the chaos that is LSU on game day nothing will surprise the junior halfback this time around. He knows what to expect from the home team too. It is what might be expected from the Bulldog offense which has fans wondering.

Perkins has his own forecast.

"I'm trying to make sure we just execute like we should this week and try to get some things going on the ground like we should. Like we have in in previous games before the two losses. And we think that this weekend we're going to get back on track with that."

The Bulldog ground game has run off the rails lately. After setting the team's offensive tone through seven-straight victories, rushing hit a wall against Alabama with 47 yards on 21 carries. A week later 27 carries produced 98 yards against Texas A&M. For perspective, 98 yards was a typical Saturday's work for Perkins during the winning streak.

No need guessing then what has been the offense's emphasis this week. But Perkins is happy to confirm a refreshed focus on the ground game. "It's real big. We know games like this you have to be able to run the ball pretty well. And you have to be able to throw the ball also, have a balanced attack. And that's what we plan on doing Saturday."

Not to mention doing it earlier and oftener. Losing back-to-back conference games were tough to accept for a State offense that had been running—and throwing too—at a record pace. Getting shut-down by the nation's acknowledged best defense at Alabama was not a shock. Getting almost shut out all evening, with the lone score coming in the fourth quarter as backups on both squads battled, was a jolt to the system.

Then a week later it was a less-regarded but maybe more aggressive Aggie defense stifling State rushers. This was surprising all around. Perkins said A&M did give a few different defensive looks and shifted a few things from scouting. That was not MSU's problem.

"It wasn't all based on what they did, I feel like we made some mistakes. We have to make sure we execute like we can, at a high level. As players we have to make sure we do our job. As long as we execute at a high level and get things going early we'll be fine."

That word ‘execute' has been uttered so often as to be burned in Bulldog ears these past two weeks. But it hasn't been directly defined. Perkins does all frustrated fans the favor of interpreting coach-speak in bare Bulldog basics.

"All it is, is everybody doing their job at a high level," Perkins said. "If they're doing their job at a high level then big plays will happen and we'll get more points on the board." The back makes it sound so simple…but losses show otherwise.

"That's why we practice," Perkins said. "I feel like practice makes perfect. I mean obviously nobody is perfect but practice is going to help you get ready for the game. And every day everybody comes to practice motivated at a high level, executing. So make sure we carry it over to the game also."

Speaking of carrying, this looks to be another heavy-duty weekend in store for Perkins. His season-statistics have taken a hit lately. Perkins is holding at 95 per-game, second-best in the conference overall this week. Still 38 and 42 yards in the past two games is not what State expects, much less needs, from the lead Dog. Observers have noticed obvious breakdowns in the blocking; and opponents come out looking for play-calling biased to the backs anyway.

That's no reason to accept less production, said Perkins. "I know a lot of times myself I missed a few holes. And I have to get better at that. That's why Coach (Greg) Knox has been practicing with us a lot with finding the hole, make sure we keep our eyes open and things like that. So we're going to get better at that."

Notice the ‘us' and ‘we'. Perkins gets the greatest slice of the carries, 28 out of 42 by backs these two weekends. Still his younger backups have been taking a few turns. Josh Robinson has 35 yards on five runs; Nick Griffin 19 yards on three; and Derrick Milton 13 yards on four. For that matter three of the four backs caught passes against Texas A&M.

This is worth noting because after two months of productive downfield throwing, Tyler Russell has not had the same open—or open as much—targets for the tossing. Nor as much time to find folk in the vertical game. Short routes and quick passes are one response but won't do much to extend a defense of LSU's ability. Perkins can foresee greater use of backs as receivers while the wideouts keep running downfield.

Besides, it was an Alabama back that scored the winning touchdown on a pass against LSU. Perkins would like his own comparable chances this week, or any other Bulldog ballcarrier.

"We've put in a lot for the gameplan this week. We're going to do a lot of base things we've been doing all season. Because the running backs are catching the ball. We're just going to keep doing what we've been doing and execute to the highest level if everybody does their job big things will happen, big plays. Make sure we stay on blocks and stick and find the holes also."

And, he added, don't take so long to get it done. Falling behind 21-0 or such for a third weekend would mean another lopsided loss.

"That's the main thing, we need to start fast," said Perkins. "If we start fast, and keep our defense off the field, that will be great for us. Because we know we can pound the clock and throw the ball, too. And keep our defense on the sideline, let them rest a lot."

Rest, but not relax focus. Or get caught-up in the legendary evening ambiance of Tiger Stadium. "It's very loud, that's the main thing I remember from two years ago. They have a great atmosphere really and their fans are energetic and are very involved."

The trick will be Bulldogs staying entirely involved in their own affairs and contesting not the 90,000 maniacs in the stands but that eleven on the opposite side of the line. That's task enough.

"I know they're a great team. But I feel like we can get some things going on the ground also," Perkins said…if State can perform against a top-tier defense. "We've been practicing on that and I think we're going to be able to execute like we should."

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