Gene Swindoll, Gene's Page

Sophomore Back Posts a November to Remember

His season didn’t really get going until the last month. Funny thing, though. That fits Aeris Williams’ approach to plays perfectly.

“Slow to fast, that’s how I do everything.”

This is certainly a faster finisher. If it’s true what gets remembered happens in November…Williams will look back on the 11th month of 2016 fondly.

In his four games the third-year sophomore garnered 450 yards with three touchdowns. All those scores came against SEC defenses as well, one in State’s home win over Texas A&M. The last two?

They were touched-down last night as the Bulldogs blasted Ole Miss behind a ground game for the books. Literally. Williams’ 191 yards combined with Nick Fitzgerald’s own 258 was the first time in Bulldog history a pair had rushed for 200/100 in the same game.

Wait, there’s more. The 457 total rushing with a handful of contributions from three others was Mississippi State’s most in SEC action. And, obviously, in an Egg Bowl. The Bulldogs literally ran through, around, when necessary over an over-matched Ole Miss defense.

Getting his first turn with the Golden Egg? “I’m just excited, I promise you,” Williams said.

As he should be. It’s not every Saturday a Bulldog gets to ramble through the Rebels practically at-will. OK, so it wasn’t THAT easy. But Williams wasn’t signed for easy jobs.

Meaning, this matchup suited his style very, very well. Suited Mississippi State’s obvious offensive emphasis down the season stretch, too. Fitzgerald either gave Williams the ball, or kept it on his own initiative, and the ground game ground on.

The best part? There was nothing fancy about it, said Williams. The Dogs did what they do best and did it better than ever, literally.

“I mean we can run on any team we want to, we just have to execute every play. That’s what we did tonight.”

Williams was the right Dog for this field. The Rebel defense somewhat resembled Texas A&M yet was even less physical, if possible. Against a back who specializes in breaking tackles or just dragging them ahead for yards after contact, it wasn’t a good recipe. For them, that is.

For State…it was ideal. “We just went out there and played,” Williams said. By ‘we’ he meant more than the backfield Bulldogs.

“The offensive line. They blocked their tails off, I promise you. I just thank God for them.” Oh, and for a Dog defense that rose to the occasion enough to get the ball back on offense, enough. So, “Once I saw how the defense was going to play everything and my offensive lie kept on blocking, it just went well for me.”

However. Let’s not overlook a bit of blocking done by Williams himself. This is an irony of course.

It has been his slow development as a blocker, whether in pass protection or for Fitzgerald; along with trying to learn real pass routes that has kept the sophomore from starting until, yes, November. In that first start Williams did average 4.8 yard against Arkansas, but only had 13 chances as Fitzgerald ran it more and threw it even more in a shootout.

Safe to say Williams’ second start was much more successful, for all Dogs. Yet his yards and pair of first-half touchdown totes aside, the biggest play by #27 might have been without the ball.

State’s 27-20 halftime lead had barely held with a 4th-and-1 stop on their 17-yard line. Fitzgerald directed the ball out of the wrong red zone and made a hugely under-appreciated third down pass play to convert with 15 yards tacked on for a Rebel roughing. Still on 4th-and-3 on the Ole Miss 38 a field goal was impossible and a punt unthinkable.

Mullen’s call for a slow-setting screen beyond left tackle was perfect for the first down…but Williams made it work for much more. As WR Fred Ross went for the sideline he saw Williams well downfield and bulldogging the Rebel safety into submission. Just enough gap was left for Ross to slide between stripe and duo and get to the end zone for the day’s critical touchdown.

Possible, because Williams showed heck yes he can block now.

“We just had to score and I just had to do my job. That was my job to block the guy so I just executed that block.” There’s an executed Rebel who will agree, grudgingly. As will other teammates waking and aching today after meeting Williams the hard way.

Naturally there is second-guessing whether Williams ought have been worked as much and started more often earlier this season. The point is moot now. Besides, Coach Greg Knox’s reasons for riding his older backs first have been reported; and Fitzgerald has been a ground game in himself.

The end-of-schedule point is, Mississippi State has found its lead back. Maybe in time for a bowl game, too, as the coming week will tell. If not Williams goes into 2017 established as top Dog in his unit and with bigger things ahead.

It’s taken time, but that’s fine with Williams. Because, he said, the key to his production? “Just my patience.”


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