Job or not, Erin Brown would have been passing along word that husband Richie had been named the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Week. Brown certainly did his linebacking job in Mississippi State’s victory at Auburn.
He was credited by the home-team crew with 13 total tackles, and a dozen of them solo stops. Though it’s still September, those dozen first-hits are the most by any SEC defender so far. Brown did say that the Tiger style played to his own sort of game.
“They run the ball hard, take shots; run the ball hard, take shots,” Brown said. “You just have to understand what they’re doing and how they’re trying to get yards, and capitalize on that.” Which he clearly did.
And, in a style that stood out. The nature of the matchup produced many more one-on-one matchups in open space. Either Brown was going to make a tackle for all to see, or get beaten in a big way. The scoreboard and stat sheet showed who won.
Brown has been winning most of his matchups this junior season. If not for a limited day against Northwestern State so backups could get snaps, the middle linebacker would likely have a four-game streak of double-digit tackles. As it is, Brown has 39 stops for the season which is 4th-most in the SEC this week. The 13 tackles at Auburn was also a career high.
“He was all over the field,” Coach Dan Mullen said. “You could feel his impact in the game.”
Mike linebackers are expected to get in on the largest share of tackles of course. That’s usually against teams running between-tackles and such, with Brown blasting into a pile of bodies. Spread sets like Auburn and more so this week’s opponent Texas A&M specialize in one-on-one situations.
“Making open field tackles is a big deal to Coach (Manny) Diaz,” Brown said. “That’s what he’s emphasized since he’s been back here. Using the new Seahawks tackling and being very efficient.”
At Auburn, the Bulldogs were exceptionally efficient in holding a Gus Malzahn offense without a touchdown for the first time in his Tiger tenure. Not that Auburn didn’t create opportunities, with four red-zone trips and 15 offensive snaps inside State’s 20-yard line. None reached the goal line.
Thing is, Brown was not at all surprised about stopping somebody short. They did it at Southern Mississippi on opening night when the Golden Eagles took four straight-shots at the goal and all were stuffed at the line of scrimmage. The Bulldog defense has allowed just four touchdowns in 14 red zone situations.
“It’s just what our mindset is,” Brown said. “We might bend, we might get knocked-back sometimes. But we’re not going to break. That’s the mindset from the strength staff, the coaches, how we practice. Bad things happen, put the ball down and stop the next drive.”
Not many bad things have happened lately, though. State has allowed one touchdown in the last nine quarters, which is excellent regardless of opponent or style. But Texas A&M is the most potent offense the Bulldogs have faced so far in 2015.
Brown has had plenty of snaps against Aggie attacks the previous two years as alternate middle man. Now the starter, he knows what to expect from Kevin Sumlin’s style.
“They’re good. A high-tempo offense, they like to throw the ball and are pretty good at it. They do a lot of the things normal spread things so we’re going to get locked-in on that today.” Brown was certainly locked-in a year ago. He came away with three interceptions, two straight picks and another caught carom, and earned his first SEC Defensive Player of the Week honor in the process as State defeated Texas A&M 48-31.
Now comes the rematch, but… “I don’t want to get caught up in the hype. I want to focus on having a good game this game. I’m sure they’re going to be careful handling the ball this year.”
Brown is focused on more than the football part of his college life. The big-time ballplayer is Mr. Homebody away from the game. Of course it helps he married a former varsity softball player.
“I help my wife around the house. She’s awesome, she helps me more than anything. I get my schoolwork done, go to the store with her. We try to keep everything important in our lives in check and make sure we do those things together. Football takes up a lot of my time, so I have to make sure I’m a good husband first.”