Because the Dog defense does rotate entire units, Brown just happened to be on Scott Field at the right times and even more-right places. The sophomore linebacker came away with all three Mississippi State interceptions at Aggie expense on Saturday afternoon. Two days later, he was named the Southeastern Conference’s Defensive Player of the Week, from all positions on that side of the ball.
This was Brown’s first such recognition, and an easy call for the conference since it had been six seasons since any SEC player came away with three picks. For his feat Brown was also named this week’s Walter Camp National Defensive Player.
And from the program’s perspective Brown tied the record for game interceptions, something done only five times before by a Bulldog and never by a linebacker. Or, needless to say, by a non-starter. This surely surprises anyone unfamiliar with the way coordinator—and linebackers coach coincidentally—Geoff Collins shuttles in complete lineups for fresh series regardless of field positioning.
So it didn’t have to be second middle ‘backer Brown dropping into coverage those three A&M snaps…but it was.
“We’re really deep, we have a lot of faith in everybody,” said Brown Saturday. “1As and 1Bs, all of us are going to roll in and-out and we have confidence in everybody.”
Such faith showed in how opportunity pointed Brown’s direction. He isn’t claiming personal credit for hawking the ball or anything like that. “It was a combination of things. It’s a lot of things that go into it.” Starting with what was going on both ahead and behind him, Brown explained, which was how those throws ended up around the middle-ground.
“When you have great pressure, you have great coverage. And when you have great coverage you have great pressure. So it went hand-in-hand. The secondary did good so the d-line could do good. It was a great team effort.”
Still somebody had to get hands on Kenny Hill’s passes. To the beleaguered quarterback’s, ahem, defense one of those turnovers was another sort of team effort; when Hill left the throw a little low and his receiver went down for the ball. Too far down, slipping supine so the throw caromed off his…and right into Brown’s hands.
The other two picks, now, those came from smart scouting and scheming. Each time Hill was throwing left-of-centerfield for somebody 10, 15 yards downfield. Each time Brown was ready and waiting. He even caught those balls in something like stride for returns. And, he admitted, after having his 2013 Egg Bowl interception immediately stripped back from behind, “Running I made sure I kept it high and tight this time and tried to secure the ball.”
Brown was credited with three total tackles in the win, equaling his turnover tally. This was more than enough to earn the team’s defensive player of the week recognition, something the SEC Office and Camp Award crews trumped hours later. Brown is sure to say all this week that any of his cohorts, whether the 1A or 1B linebackers, would have done the same given similar opportunities.
It all just happened to come his way on one great big day.
“I’m just trying to focus on my assignment. I want the win most importantly so I’m going to do my job first. And try to make big plays when I have the chance.”
Brown wasn’t the only Bulldog honored by the SEC Office with a weekly honor after knocking off then-#6 A&M. Two weeks ago guard Ben Beckwith was the league’s Offensive Lineman of the Week following a victory at then-#8 Louisiana State, which the SEC believes is the first time one of their OTW awards went to a former walk-on of any position.
Make that two for Beckwith as he repeated…and did so at a different position. Moving over to center and hiking the ball live for the first time since high school, Beckwith played every offensive snap against A&M for an offense that tallied 559 yards.
The Dog directing that offense, quarterback Dak Prescott, repeated at Athlon’s National Player of the Week after producing five total touchdowns in the team’s second win over a top-ten SEC West opponent. Prescott’s consecutive performances have suddenly pushed the junior to the forefront of many a Heisman Trophy speculative ballot.
Still the season isn’t even half-done. All these award-winning Dogs and the full roster have another and even greater challenge immediately ahead as #3 Mississippi State hosts #2 Auburn in an October matchup of Division leaders which may end up deciding who represents the West in December’s league title game. Or even the January national playoffs.
State has sold-out all seats and now standing room as well for the 2:39 kickoff on Scott Field.