Bulldog Defense Preparing for Ground-Pounding Wildcats

Last week it was the Rockies. This week, the Bluegrass. Addresses and time zones change but two facts are the same for Mississippi State’s defense.

First, the opponent again is dressed in blue-and-white. Second, Kentucky prioritizes the running attack as much as Brigham Young. More, even. Which has Peter Sirmon preparing his Bulldogs for an equally-physical and more-versatile Wildcat ground attack.

Tuesday's transcript follows.

What did you see on film from your defense at BYU? “I was pleased that the guys really came out with a good purpose, good focus. I think they started fast. They came out and played very physical.”

“And I saw that on film. But that’s a good starting point. That’s one of those non-negotiables, go out there and play with really good effort and play with purpose. And go out there and play together.”


The 14 points in regulation were the fewest in the regular season, what led to that? “I think the guys executed the plan well. I think they executed to what they’re capable of. And we’ve got to be in it together. Like I said last week, I’ve got to coach better; the guys need to execute better; and we’re all in it together. I think it’s the culmination of I needed to do a better job and maybe needed to minimize some things, and do a better job of communicating what the expectation are. And as players they ned to go out and execute the plan.”


What do you see from Stanley Williams? “You know, Boom does a good job. But the other two kids do a good job as well. I think they use them in similar ways. They do a really good job of finding some daylight. They design a lot of different runs for them. But those guys can bounce out really anywhere in the box and make you pay. I think they all have really good vision, good quickness, and they can bounce-cut something that might not be intended to go outside; or keep it inside and gain some additional yards.”


How does it change from last week, with Williams more a threat with the passing game? “Well you have to know where he’s at, obviously a lot more. Last week we weren’t overly concerned with the pass game coming out of the backfield. There were certain run game things that were a little bit eliminated.”

“Kentucky is going to have a little more I guess of a full menu of the run game with gap schemes, zone schemes, wildcat, quarterback run. So there’s a little more to contend with. I can’t really say we’re going to change by jersey number but just to be aware of what they’re capable of is kind of the message this week, of setting good edges and using our hands and a lot of same things in the run game to be successful.”


What did the defense do better last week? “I thought we moved well. I think we did some things where it was a challenge for the offense to block us. We knocked some balls down. Mark (McLaurin) had a nice interception, A.J. (Jefferson) got a ball out of his hand. And I thought we played a little more physical at the line of scrimmage.”

“Plays we need to get better, I thought we had a lot of opportunities to knock the ball down. I mean by that in the run game when you make contact the ball is down and the play is over. So we need to do a better job of finishing on those plays.”

“I think we left a pretty significant amount of yards on the field. Where we always look at missed tackles. But some missed tackles are going to be great plays. But tackles, when we’re body on body and I’ve got both my feet in the ground and I’m wrapped up, those plays have got to be knocked down and when that happens the play needs to be over for us.”


Cory Thomas quietly had a nice game, how would you grade him? “Cory is showing flashes. Which is just enough to increase the expectations. But we need greater consistency.”

“He’s done a nice job. I think one play really came to mind, he made an inside movement and a great play coming from the defensive left hash. But we need from a lot of the young guys, the inexperienced guys…if you can do it once the question to me is what is holding you back from doing it more than once and doing it over and over and over and over?”

“Usually what you find is there’s something mentally that’s holding them back. Or they haven’t had to struggle to play in the fourth quarter and some of those things. So we have to push all those inexperienced players where when they do show those flashes how do we capture that again and get them doing it more than one time.”


How did you grade McLaurin in his first start? “I was pleased with Mark. You know, Mark’s played in every game. He hasn’t had a significant amount of reps but he’s had a lot of reps. And I think he’s gotten a lot better since the spring. I thought he had a good training camp. And he’s really put himself in position with the injury back there (Kivon Coman) of settling very nicely. And I think Coach Mo (Maurice Linguist) has done a nice job of getting him ready.”


How does Thomas get where it isn’t a mental thing? “As a position coach, Coach Bake (Brian Baker), you’ve got to teach them how to control their thoughts. Because anyone that’s played football knows that playing from the first quarter to the fourth quarter, there’s a lot of mental challenges of getting over plays; to battle through some exhaustion; to battle through from getting your *** hit and knocked down and not winning every play.”

“A lot of that for the inexperienced players is understand that you’re going to get knocked down sometimes. Understand that you’re going to get tired, and understand that you can continue to fight through. And I think the more you play I guess you know what your temperature is and how much you can handle. And the more you do it, the more you feel that you can handle that kind of stress throughout the game, I think you’ll see those guys continue to develop.”


How did Will Coleman respond to his first chance to play this season? “He played with good effort. You know, he’s been off for months. So as he continues to get healthier we’ll find opportunities for him to come in. And at this time of year we’ll take all the solid bodies and they’ll continue to do a nice job. So we have to make sure he keeps getting better and better and getting more reps. And then you’ll see more of him on the field.”


Was it frustrating or encouraging to get the strip in overtime but not fall on it? “That’s kind of the way it went the other night. A.J. did a nice job of getting the ball out. Marquiss (Spencer) actually threw the tight end back. The kicker of it, the kid darn near scored! I mean that’s when you need that oblong ball to bounce the right way.”
“Even the last play (regulation), the Hail Mary, Trevor (Jung) got the ball out. If that ball kicks another way and A.J. might have an opportunity to not get his feet caught-up when he recovers it… But you’ve got to play to make the plays, you know. And you’ve got to keep going. Usually football is a very honest sport. The harder you play and the more effort you give the more those things bounce your way.”


What did you see on the last (BYU) play? “We brought two off an edge into that boot. The result’s the result. I’d probably call the gosh-darned defense again. I mean to bring two off an edge into naked… I’ve got to coach it up better. I’ve got to coach it up better and we’ve got to get him on the ground and we’ve got to live to fight another play.”


Is that one of those examples that offense can have three bad plays and punt, defense can have one bad play and the game is over? “That’s a great example of it. It’s same sport, different game.”


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