Top-Ranked Tide Top Challenge for Dog Offense

How can something be so complicated and at the same time straight-forward? Easy, according to Les Koenning; spend a week scouting and scheming for Alabama. "The sad part is, you know what they're going to do," says the offensive coordinator. Stopping it? Another matter entirely.

But still a matter Mississippi State must address as a home game with the top-ranked Crimson Tide looms. The Bulldogs (4-5, 1-4 SEC) are hosting Alabama (9-0, 6-0) with kickoff at 6:45 from Scott Field. No single week would allow sufficient time to get really ready for most number-one opponents…but this is the two-time defending national champions and a club on the fast track for their third-straight.

That's the simple overview. The complications? "When you prepare for the number-one team in the country, it's definitely some detailed preparation," Koenning said. "They're a really, really good football team. They're very sound. And you just have to execute. Like I talk to you after a game, it's just a matter of execution, eliminate out mental mistakes, and take advantage of our matchups."

What on the Texas A&M film did you like? "I thought we played well. We really did. We had a lot of yards, we moved up and down the field. I thought the kids played really, really well. Both quarterbacks went in there in different situations and produced. So did everybody else. I felt good about it. The outcome, I wasn't real happy about it."

"I was kind of amazed with Johnny Football (Manziel). When you watch him its kind of remarkable, he prolongs the play for eight seconds. I mean that's hard to cover somebody for eight seconds no matter who you are. And he's just a unique player, totally different than what you've seen. And he's a true spread quarterback that can make things happen."

What did you think of how Dak Prescott performed under the emotional strains, and after limited practices? "Remarkable. A really great kid. My heart goes out to him and his family, that's a tough deal. Any time you lost your Mom it's a tough deal. He was very close to his mother and it's remarkable, when he came back he told me Coach I need my family and football. So it was pretty impressive to me as a young man those were the things that stick forefront of his mind, it was kind of emotional for me. I mean it really was. And I knew his Mom really well, too, she was a great lady. He got to see his family but it was tough, tough deal."

Have you narrowed anything down with the Prescott-Tyler Russell deal, whoever you put in moves the football but with Dak you get points? "You say that. You look back on the drives before, he took us straight down and scored. I mean it's one thing or the other, we just have to execute. It's a matter of execution and putting everything together. I don't think it's the person in there, it's the person who executes is the one that makes things happen."

Do you expect to have Prescott Saturday? "Yeah, it's a good question that I'd ask later on in the week. But I think yeah, I'm planning on him coming, I'm planning on him being there."

What have you done in practice with Prescott's stinger? "He's out there, I mean he's out there working and he's getting all his reps and stuff. So it's been good for us, he's sitting there getting it all through mentally, getting it all done, and he's done a great job. I mean again at the quarterback position getting towards the end of the year there's not a lot of things that are going to change. We're going to hone-up some things against them defensively."

Talk about the job De'Runnya Wilson did last game? "It's hard to throw Bear a bad ball. I mean it really is, he's such a big receiver that if you're just a little off it doesn't matter. Because it's going to be a good pass for you. And he adjusts to the ball really, really well. Being that big it's hard for defenders to get around him."

Is it hard to believe he's only been playing football for a couple of years? "I mean it really is remarkable. He really does a nice job. And our quarterbacks have confidence in him, too. They know where he's at."

He almost forced you to play him this year? "But the other part too is we graduated a lot of seniors! Would we like Chad (Bumphis) back, yes! Would we like Chris (Smith) and Arceto (Clark), yes we'd like those guys back. But again he's stepped up, and somebody had to step up and he did that."

Is LaDarius Perkins 100%, he seemed a little slower Saturday? "I want to say this, if you get a chance to watch the film and the touchdown he scores there's an unblocked player in the hole. And he bounces off of him and scores, it's a really, really good run by Ladarius. It really was."

What is the difference working with these freshmen and sophomores compared to Chad, Arceto, those guys? "When they've been in the system that long you know exactly where they're at, you can anticipate breaks, you can make things happen. With younger guys we're starting to gain that confidence with it as the year goes on. And I think that's important. Timing and understanding proper depths, make sure you read kids' body-language when they're coming in and out of cuts and stuff like that."

Coach Mullen said the line between the two quarterbacks coming out of camp was even, what was it going into camp? "Well again I think Dak's really improved in his throwing game. And he'll tell you that when you talk to him, he's really improved a bunch. So it's been really helpful for us. And his acceleration has pushed Tyler really hard, too. And Tyler got banged-up, so it was really tough on him."

Is there a difference in preparing for the physicality of Alabama opposed to Texas A&M? "It's the SEC. It's week-in and week-out. I'm with you, it's still the SEC. And I don't say this in a bad manner, the five losses we've had have been I think to top-twenty teams, one of them is 21. So we're facing some really good football teams. And Alabama right now is the best of all of them! So I'd say they're going to be pretty physical."

The offensive line seems to be growing up, and quarterbacks getting the ball out as sacks are down? "Obviously it helps when they grow up, it really does. We've graduated some people in that position and they (this year's linemen) have stepped-up. And you know we've had some people banged-up in that position so we've had to play with different players. But that's part of it."

Russell coming off the best passing season at State, and now having to play backup for the most part, how has he handled that? "It's been well. They're great friends. When we flew down to the funeral it was Tyler, Damian (Williams) and myself, Coach Mullen and Megan and Hev (John Hevesy). They're really, really good friends. They love competition amongst each other, it's not one of those deals that hey you've got it; it's competition. And when you can walk into a room and turn on a film and grade a film, and let them grade it, they know who made the best grade of the week and stuff like that. The first time when I put the papers down they grab them really quick; what'd I score, where I'd score, where did I lose/?' That's part of getting better."

How common is what they have? "Well , I can't answer about the norm. I can answer about my room. I come in my room with those kids and it's really fun to be there. Because they all want to learn, they all get along, they all push each other, they all rag on each other when they make a mistake. That's pretty good, now."


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