Gene Swindoll, Gene's Page

Mississippi State running backs' coach Greg Knox talks about the development of the Bulldog running game.

Seven games into the the 2015 football season, Mississippi State has not had a player rush for over 100 yards. That in game milestone was commonplace a season ago. While the Bulldog offensive effort has been solid this year, it has been mostly one dimensional. Coach Greg Knox reports that his unit is progressing and that he is hopeful that a breakout game is on the horizon.

Senior quarterback Dak Prescott is averaging just over 36 yards per game. Despite a reduced number of rushing attempts this fall, Prescott remains the team's leader with 254 yards rushing on the season. 

The Bulldogs have not seen one running back take over as the bell cow of the group. Knox believes the unit is working to get things done as a committee without a feature back.

"I feel good and it's really just a week to week development," Knox said. "I think we've gotten better every week. We just have to continue on that progression."

On Monday, Coach Dan Mullen said that the first building blocks in every Mississippi State running backs' development is learning to protect the quarterback and learning to protect the football. One half of the Bulldogs' four man rotation at running back is comprised of redshirt freshmen who are still feeling their way through life on the college level.

"It's coming. It's coming," Knox said. "We haven't missed any blitz pick-ups, but we haven't been great with our technique. We have to continue to progress as far as our technique when it comes to protecting the quarterback. We want to be able to do that aggressively and consistently."

One of the tasks that Knox has tried to drill down with his group is aiming blocks the right direction and understanding how the puzzle of 22 fits together on every play. That remains a work in progress for the younger players.

"It's really about their eyes," Knox explained. "If you see the whole defense, you will know where you have to go before the ball is ever snapped. One of the biggest problems is eyes. Where are their eyes before the ball is snapped? Are we able to survey the defense and then process that information and then take the steps we need to take in order to execute properly?"

Over the long haul of a college season, there will be ups and downs both physically and emotionally. While the Bulldogs have not had that one big break through game on the ground, Knox reports that his unit remains positive.

"We haven't had that one big break out game, but we have a good group of guys who are executing as a unit," Knox explained. "It should come. I am hoping that it does. With a break out game comes confidence. The guy that breaks out is really going to be a confident player and that will be good for our team."

The threat of the big play on the ground was a big part of the Bulldog successes of 2014. Dak Prescott was capable of taking over a game with his feet, but one of the main ingredients in that success was the presence of an explosive complement in the running game.

While Prescott is the trigger man of the Bulldog offense, his job is made easier when he has a running back who keeps the defense honest.

"Dak plays a big part in our running game," Knox said. "His ability to run the football takes a lot off of the running backs, but when the running backs are able to run the ball it takes a lot off of Dak. We have to be more productive in both areas."

Last season, Mississippi State rushed for 326 yards with Josh Robinson finishing one short run away from 200 yards. The Wildcats enter Saturday's contest with the nation's 66th ranked rush defense.

Saturday's kick-off is set for 6:30 this Saturday night. This weekend's contest is the final home game of the season where tickets remain available. Home games against Alabama and Ole Miss have already been announced as complete sellouts. 

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