Steve Robertson - Genespage.com

Mississippi State senior linebacker Zach Jackson talks about his tomorrow's game at Texas A&M

Five years into the Mississippi State experience, linebacker Zach Jackson understands what is at stake this weekend on the road at Texas A&M. While the Bulldogs had a solid game in all phases last weekend, Jackson believes Mississippi State is capable of a better performance. Bulldog fans hope that break out showing takes place tomorrow at College Station.

Jackson recorded four tackles, a quarterback hurry and a broke up a pass in perhaps his best game of the young season last week at Auburn. Jackson reports that the film review also painted his efforts in a positive light.

"I graded out a champion for the Auburn game," Jackson shared. "I felt like I knew all of my assignments and I played fast. I just did my best to trust my keys and just run to the ball."

With a new coordinator and some new wrinkles to implement this fall, it took a week or two for the Bulldogs to work out some kinks. Those growing pains all but disappeared last week at Auburn. Jackson believes the defensive unit is beginning to find a real sense of itself.

"I think we're one of the best defenses in the country when we do our thing," Jackson said. "When people get in our red zone, they don't score on us. We make them kick field goals and sometimes we even make them miss the field goal. I feel like we have a bend, but don't break mentality."

Missed tackles had been an issue in the first three weeks of the season, but collectively the Bulldogs were much better in space against Auburn. There were some issues with wrapping up early in the contest, but as the game went along more immediate stops were recorded. 

"They completed some passes, but once they completed them there really wasn't many yards after the catch," Jackson said. "There was always somebody there to wrap the guy up or slow him down until another guy could come in for the clean-up tackle."

The Bulldogs have faced some teams this season who like to run the football. Texas A&M likes to make some plays on the ground too, but the Aggies are a much more balanced offense than the 2015 Dogs have seen thus far on the campaign. 

Jackson reports that the Aggies bring some different challenges to the contest and the Bulldog linebackers have to play solid, disciplined football. Personally, Jackson says he has to be very careful what looks he gives the Texas A&M offense.

"I believe I have a real big responsibility this game," Jackson explained. "A lot of things depend on where I line up. If I line up too far inside, they are going to throw the bubble out there every time. If I line up too wide and try to baby sit the bubble, then they will play the inside zone. My alignment plays a big part in things this game."

With the development of sophomore linebacker J.T. Gray, Jackson has a very capable two deeper than can spell him throughout the game and allow everyone to remain fresh late in ball games.

"He has progressed really well as a young guy and I don't even really consider him a young guy anymore," Jackson said. "He plays like a veteran and he prepares like a veteran. 

"When I am in the game, it's like he is in the game. He is on the sideline really watching what plays they run against me. He can pick up the good things I am doing and the things I could have done different. When you're on the sidelines, you can see things differently.

"It's the same thing for me when he is in the game. I really watch to see what they're trying to do over there against us. We talk a lot when we both get back on the sidelines, so we both know what to look for."

Early in the season the defensive buzz word was "trust". Now that the Bulldogs have begun to really trust in each other, Jackson believes the foundation has been laid for a very solid defensive effort each and every week. 

"We just have to continue to build on that trust," Jackson said. "You have to trust that your teammate is going to set that edge for you. You can't ever stop your feet or ever feel like you're alone out there on defense. You always have somebody out there on the outside and inside. You just have to trust in each other."

Setting the edge was a bit of an issue last week as Auburn found some ground gains on the perimeter of the Mississippi State defense. Jackson reports that some steps have been taken this week to prevent that going forward.

"We have to get up the field more vertically instead of just moving side to side," Jackson said. "We just have to stop and get up the field. The receiver is going to try to keep going sideways and try to wind you out. That's his job. He wants us to go with him, but we just have to avoid that and get up the field to set the edge."

Mississippi State is 2-0 on the road after four weeks. With road victories at Southern Miss and Auburn, the Bulldogs have some confidence knowing that they can win the game even when the attending crowd is cheering against them.

"We have confidence in our ability to play well on the road," Jackson said. "We are looking forward to this game and looking forward to playing in a big time environment. We came here to play ball and games like this one at Texas A&M is what playing in the SEC is all about."


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