Steve Robertson/Genespage.com

Mississippi State All-American defensive lineman Chris Jones discusses his team's game against LSU.

Mississippi State defensive lineman Chris Jones knew that his team would have to contain LSU's vaunted running attack led by Heisman candidate Leonard Fournette. The talented sophomore scored three times in a 21-19 Tiger victory, but the Bulldog defensive unit did their part to give their offense a chance to catch up after a slow start.

"We already knew he was a tough runner," Jones said of Fournette. "He did what we thought he was going to do. I feel like he runs a lot harder than last year. I guess last year, he was a freshman and he got the little kinks out. He's a good running back and I told him that. "

Fournette paced all runners with 159 yards rushing, but the Bulldogs countered with a Heisman candidate of their own, Dak Prescott. Prescott threw for 335 yards and a score. The senior signal caller's efforts were helped by a defensive effort that kept the Maroon and White in the contest, while the offensive unit sharpened their attack outscoring the Tigers in the game's final three quarters.

"We were just expressing the offense that we had their back no matter the situation," Jones said. "We aren't watching the score. We are just playing hard to get them the ball back."

Mississippi State defensive line coach David Turner said at the conclusion of fall camp that Jones was playing the best football of his college career. Two games into his junior season, Jones has done his part to make his Coach's words ring true.

"I try to watch a lot of film to know that the offense is doing," Jones said. "I play hard. I see Nick James play hard. I see A.J. (Jefferson) and Ryan (Brown) and we try to keep each other going."

The Bulldogs were without any current game film from their opponents, but the personable Jones reports that his team did not use that as an excuse.

"It was a good thing and a bad thing," Jones said of LSU missing last week's opener. "It was a good thing, because it was their first game and there were some wrinkles in it. The bad thing was that we didn't know what they were going to run. They ran a little spread and we weren't used to that. We were used to the 'I", so it was good and bad."

Despite his underclassmen accolades, Jones is starting for the first time this campaign. The Houston, Mississippi native is joined on the interior by standout Nick James who is off to a strong start this fall as well.

"It's going great," Jones said of playing as a tandem. "We have to keep each other going. Sometimes I have my days and sometimes he has his days, but it's team work. We all have to keep each other going."

The early going on Saturday night forced the Bulldog defense to lean on each other until they could find the formula to stymie the LSU offensive unit.

"It's always going to be an old school fight," Jones said. "You punch, I punch, you punch, I punch and the first person to flinch is who loses. That was a battle in that first half. We were just punching each other. We held on and the defense crunk it up."

The second half of the contest with LSU should some positive signs for Mississippi State on both sides of the ball. There are some things for the Bulldogs to build on, but the loss essentially gives the Tigers a two game lead over the Bulldogs in the race for the SEC Western crown.

"We (changed) our approach and the mindset we came out with," Jones explained. "We let the offense know that no matter what the situation was, we were going to fight hard and give our all. As a unit, we talked among ourselves and said that we would never give up no matter what the score is.

"It doesn't matter if it's 50-0, we are going to fight like it's 0-0. We came in with that mindset and Coach (Manny) Diaz emphasized on it. We just played hard."

With the game on the line and the final Bulldog possession hanging in the balance, the LSU offense took the field on a 4th down play as if they were planning to go for it rather than punt the ball away. Instead, Tiger quarterback Brandon Harris tried in vain to get the Bulldog defenders to jump off sides. "Before that play, Coach Turner emphasized, 'Do not jump off sides'," Jones shared. "We were all looking for the hard count when they came out there. I had to tell Nick James. He's an emotional guy, so you have to talk to him and let him know what they are trying to do."

The Bulldogs did not take the bait and as a result the Tigers were forced to punt giving the home crowd one final chance to explode. 

"We call came together as a unit and said that we were going to do this for Dak and we're going to do this for the offensive line," Jones said. "We got the ball back and put them in a great situation. Our kicker made a bad kick and that happens sometimes."

Despite the loss, Jones believes that his team has some special thing in store this season. The talented defensive lineman says that all goals remain attainable.

"I haven't seen many teams that win every game and win the championship," Jones said. "Tim Tebow a couple of years ago when he was at Florida, they lost and still went on and won the SEC championship. All of our hopes and dreams are still ahead of us. 

"It's all about getting better as a team and as a unit. It's now about us getting better and learning for these mistakes."

Mississippi State will return to action next Saturday as the Bulldogs host the Demons of Northwestern State. Kickoff is slated for 3 PM.


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