"I have really studied hard and I have been hard on myself," Brandon Bryant shared in a one-on-one interview Tuesday night. "Looking back on the first three games, I feel like I could have performed better. I took a lot of time to critique myself, because I wanted to be so perfect with everything. I wanted to be the play maker and make everybody else happy.
"I have figured out that this is not about everybody else's happiness. It's about my happiness and me playing the game with my teammates."
With a fresh outlook, Bryant put his efforts into planning, practice and preparation last week as the Bulldogs mined though hours of game film to get a good handle of what to expect on the road against UMASS. The renewed sense of commitment appears to have paid of handsomely. Bryant recorded a season high nine tackles in the 47-35 triumph over the Minutemen.
"I took it real hard last week and practice and I took it hard in a leadership role. I wanted to push the guys as well as myself," Bryant said. "I studied a whole lot of film, so I knew a lot of things that UMASS was going to do. I knew who they wanted to get the ball to, so I was a lot closer on all of the routes that they threw. On the tackles that I made, I had a good idea of what they were trying to do with those concepts."
Bryant can be seen during pre-game warm-ups and during time outs dancing around and providing an emotional lift for the team. Earlier in the season, Bryant appeared to be a little more buttoned up. On Saturday, Bryant let the passion flow and found his familiar groove.
"I feel like in the first three games, that I lost some of my confidence," Bryant said. "I feel like I lost my spark, because I wanted to be so exact with everything. I fed into a lot of what some other people were saying. Some people expect me to always be the play maker and I always expect to go out and perform at a high level every game.
"The cookie doesn't always crumble the same way all of the time. Some games you're going to make some mistakes and you have to know that going in. I was being really hard on myself about some of the mistakes that I made.
"I called my mom to talk about things. She can tell when something is wrong with me and she knows me like the back of her hand. That helped me get my confidence back to be able to go out there and play at the level of play that I expect to play at. I just needed to get my spark back."
Having the chance to share his frustration with his mother provided Bryant the chance to air out the proverbial closet and start anew.
"My mom just told me that there is no pressure. She kept saying 'No Pressure'," Bryant shared. "I told her before that I didn't want anybody putting pressure on me. I don't need people telling me that I have to do this or I have to do that and that I have to have a great game. I just want to be able to enjoy the game.
"I didn't even really enjoy the win like I should have Saturday. As one of the leaders on the team, I have to be able to enjoy wins. I have to be able to smile and be able to cheer with the other guys, because we won. Even though I had a good game, I felt like my performance should have been better.
"I had a lot of pressure on my shoulders, but I am releasing all of that now. I am letting all of that go. I am just going to go out there and play for me, my family, my team and for Mississippi State. Last year, I was hungry to go out play and now I am getting back to that. I have my spark back now."
Mississippi State will enjoy a bye week this week as they prepare for a crucial stretch of games that begins at home against Auburn. The Bulldogs have won three of the last four against the Tigers including two in a row.
Bryant reports that he will spend some time enjoying the chance to watch college football, but he will continue to spend some time studying the Auburn offense.
"As soon as one game is over, you start getting ready for the next game," Bryant said. "This is a hard league to play in, the SEC. It's about to get real serious, so we have to have an idea about what they like to do. We aren't scheming on them yet, but I have taken some time out to watch a little film. You have to be a student of the game and that helps you make a lot of plays.
"We are attacking the bye week hard even though you don't have a game to play. You have to go out and enjoy practice and enjoy the game of football. You have to have that juice, swag and confidence out there every single day. It's hard to win, so in order to get a win you have to have a great week of practice and preparation.
"We came out today and we had great energy in practice today. We are all doing good and doing what we need to do this week to ensure we have a great week of practice next week as we get ready for Auburn."