Sirmon Bulldogs Still Seeking Four-Quarter Performance by Defense

It’s an entirely-new opponent for every Bulldog. But since Peter Sirmon is still pretty new to Mississippi State himself, scheming for Massachusetts is just the latest quick study.

The defensive coordinator talked Tuesday about the weekend matchup with the Minutemen in Foxboro’s Gillette Stadium (3:30et, ESPN3/ASN). Though, as Sirmon said, at this point he’s trying to transform his unit from being motivated by opponents to bringing their own internal motivation into every game. That, and giving the same sort of effort that has produced shutouts in the first half against both South Alabama and South Carolina and the second half at LSU.

After review how did your defense play at LSU? “We have a long way to go. We’re still a tale of two halves. I thought we did some good things in spurts. The emphasis is can you tackle (Leonard Fournette) better? I mean he’s a very, very fine player, some one-on-one tackles we didn’t get him down. And then those third-and-mediums, we have to do a much better job of getting off the field.”

“I think we had six third-and-ten-plusses in the game and we were good on those not converting. But there’s a lot of the mediums that we’ve got to do a lot better job getting off the field to get to four or five third-and-ten-plusses vs. that team. I think the kids did some good things to get to those situations. We just need to do a better job of when we get those three-and-outs and flipping the field and creating better field position for the team.”


Is there one thing you need to do on those third and mediums? “Well, it’s a combination of how we continue to build the rush-plan; and how that meshes with the back end. And we’re still developing guys and still trying to get the guys in the very best positions of what they’re best at.”

“The balancing act of if you’re bringing four, if you’re bringing five, if you’re bringing six, the down-and-distance; the personnel matchups we have on the outside. It’s a little bit of a Rubiks Cube of getting it all matched up to getting us in the best position to win those plays.”


What was it like to see Dez Harris have such a good game? “It was unbelievable. You know, he hasn’t played a bunch up to that point. But the way he played, the way he competed, the way he handled himself on the sidelines was great to see.”

“I haven’t been through all the adversity with him while he’s been going through it. But to have the resolve and to be able to continue to battle back from setback after setback after setback and then go out in that environment, in that situation and pull the ball away two times…that was a special night for anybody. But to do it on top of the challenges he’s had while he’s been here I think it kind of speaks to what kind of kid he is.”


What led to him getting that much playing time? “He’s a physical player. And I’ve been trying to find the right time to get him some more opportunities. Richie (Brown) left for a brief time there in the second quarter. But Dez came in and he played really well.”

“It’s like when a kid’s playing well you let him continue to build the confidence. He continued to make plays for us.”


You’ve had three shutout halves, have you identified what’s going on the other three halves? “Not to be sarcastic, but if I did, man, it’d be totally different!”

“This week I’m talking to the kids about it’s us vs. us. You know, we’ve played three opponents up to now. And we’ve used those opponents as our gauge. We’ve had really good outings in certain halves; in other halves it’s really a polar opposite of what we’re playing.”

“So I’m asking us to look at ourselves and challenge ourselves and really the same message last week. Is how long can we play? The kids’ response is we’re going to play as long as it takes. The time of not of essence, the score is not of essence. We’re going to play until the refs tell us to stop playing. That’s the message I think with young people in general, I think that’s the message with football players.”
“To me sometimes success and failure can both be imposters. If we go out and hang up 60 points but we give up 59, the world might say we’re successful. But to give up 59 is not successful. So sometimes the results skew how you feel about yourself. What I want us to look at is to leave the field and think this is the best performance we could have put on tonight. And the result is the result.”

“Sometimes the results don’t go your way but to leave the play but to leave the field with that confidence, that stamp of putting a signature on your performance? That’s what I want us to be able to do.”


With injuries at cornerback you’ve had to play some young and inexperienced guys, how have they handled it? “I think they’ve handled it well emotionally. I think at every position when you’re not playing the way I think we’re capable of playing… Everybody needs to make plays. It goes back to you have to win your matchup. And we need more winning the d-line, we need more guys winning the linebacker, we need more guys winning in the back end. When the ball is in the air we need guys attacking the ball. And football comes down to a series of one-on-one matchups where there’s a winner and a loser. We need to come out and continue to really focus and stress that personal matchup of doing your job and then a little bit more.”


It seemed LSU was picking on Jamoral Graham, what did you see from first to second half? “The big play, the third-and-ten or whatever the down-and-distance was, they threw the skinny post. He had a shot to make it, it was an excellent throw. I know we could have done some things fundamentally or technically a little bit better.”

“But it was good to see him continue to battle. I think that’s where you’re proud of the guys. We took some shots early, I thought the roughing the kicker was unfortunate. That was a great effort by John (Calvin) and to run into him… It’s like the ball went right through his mid-section, I don’t know how he missed the ball! But those are things where on a good day that hits our player, it might fall forward and you pick it up or you don’t give up any points. Unfortunately we ran into the kicker, they took the points off the board and proceeded to score.”

“I’m proud of the guys that they could have made two choices walking into halftime. I’m proud they came out and made the right choice and battled their @@@@@ off.”


Massachusetts’ statistics are biased to the passing game, what have you seen of their offense? “Well, I think they’ve been a passing offense a little bit. Florida played pretty good run defense against them, Boston College was pretty physical up front.”

“Both quarterbacks are really fine players. #2 played the first two weeks and then #7, the lefty came in and I thought he played his tail off. He did a great job. He moves in the pocket to throw people open. I think they’re doing a nice job, they’ve kind of settled into a few of their feature guys in the pass offense and they’re getting the ball to them.”

“They’ve played some pretty good opponents. And they played FIU and earned their first win. So I’d have to imagine they’re feeling pretty good. There’s probably a little uncertainty who’s going to play quarterback. But I don’t think that impacts the teams as much as we all think it does.”


Coming off a SEC game how do you approach a non-conference game on the road? “It goes back to it’s us vs. us. It really does. I think there’s certain times opponents are relevant. And I think we’re at a crossroads right now of are we going to be opponent-driven or are we going to be driven internally?”

“I think that’s what we need to acknowledge and say OK, this is what we’re doing well, this is what we need to improve. And we can celebrate the things we’re doing well inside the room. Guys we’re doing this well the way we want to be coached; these are the things that we need to correct. Because not everything is bad. I think we’re doing really good things as a defense. We just need to do it in a more consistent basis.”

“So its about us, and about us personally getting better. And individuals getting better. If individuals get better collectively we’ll all get better.”


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