Mississippi State senior linebacker T. J. Mawhinney, who leads the SEC in tackles per game with 12.7 per game, talked about the upcoming game with LSU, how he thinks the MSU defense will do against the LSU offense, his feelings about the immediate future of his team and how he has handled the losses."> Mississippi State senior linebacker T. J. Mawhinney, who leads the SEC in tackles per game with 12.7 per game, talked about the upcoming game with LSU, how he thinks the MSU defense will do against the LSU offense, his feelings about the immediate future of his team and how he has handled the losses.">

Senior Linebacker T. J. Mawhinney

<img src="http://www.genespage.com/images/01players/football/2003/mawhinneytja.jpg" align="left" width="120" height="159"> Mississippi State senior linebacker T. J. Mawhinney, who leads the SEC in tackles per game with 12.7 per game, talked about the upcoming game with LSU, how he thinks the MSU defense will do against the LSU offense, his feelings about the immediate future of his team and how he has handled the losses.

T. J. Mawhinney Interview:

Is the LSU game a special game for you since you are from Louisiana?
"Yeah, my family lives down there. And friends have been harassing me on the phone for the past week about this upcoming game, so it will be pretty interesting."

LSU is going to try and run it down your throat as long as they can. Are you interested in seeing if you can stand in there and stop them?
"It is going to be a game of toughness. I know in the Oregon game they ran a little bit, but they mostly spread us out. LSU will line it up with double tights (ends) and see if you can stop them. This is probably one of the best (offensive) fronts that we will play all year. Their offensive line is back from last year and they are all juniors and seniors. They have good backs, good receivers, good tight end and a good quarterback."

How do you feel you will be able to stand in there against them?
"I think we will be fine. I feel pretty confident that we will be able to hold against the run. We just can't keep blowing assignments. If you have a man, then you have to stick with that man. We can't get washed down. The defensive line has to stay in their gaps. The linebackers can't miss tackles. I missed a big tackle last week. That is inexcusable. We can't continue to blow assignments because the outcome will be just as bad or worse if we do it against a team like LSU."

If you shock the world Saturday (by beating LSU) will that make what happened in the first three games go away?
"It will for the conference, but I think the older guys are still ticked off at the way some people played. The first three you can say were a learning experience but you can't forget them. Starting the SEC is kind of like a clean slate. We are pretty excited about starting conference play."

Why were blown assignments the past few years not as noticeable as in past years, especially when you have such a good offense?
"I can't answer that. I don't know why. It's not an excuse but we are young in the secondary."

Actually, you guys are not only young in the secondary but even the veteran players back there like Kevin Dockery, Darren Williams and even senior cornerback Odell Bradley don't have much experience.
"Like I said, it's not an excuse but we are so young on defense. The calls made; some times some people aren't executing the calls. It's just added up to 42 points, 31 points, 42 points again."

Does it amaze you that the team was still in each one of those games at the end? Does that give you some confidence in the immediate future of this team?
"Yes, it does. Our special teams are playing good. Our offense is playing good. Those two phases are playing good. We are the third phase and we have to pick up the slack. You can give up 21 points and even 28 points but when you give up anything over 30, you are asking your offense to do a lot and it is hard. It puts our offense in a bind. But if they keep playing the way they are playing and (the defense) picks up the slack, we are going to turn this thing around."

You take losses about as hard as anyone that I have seen. Individually, how do you get over the frustrations from a loss?
"I guess I sulk right after the game and probably Sunday and even mope around Monday a little bit, but I get ready for (the next game). (The LSU game) will be a fun ballgame and we will be on national television again. It will be the first conference game and it will probably be the best team we will play from the Western Division all year. It will be a measuring stick as to how good we compare in the SEC. There are no excuses this week. We lay it on the line and see how good we are."

So, you forget about the losses and just look toward the next game.
"Coach always says the the fun thing about football, regardless whether you win or lose, is next week you get to play again. You have to look at it like that and go from there."


Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page (http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com), the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports and Mississippi high school sports on the internet. You can contact him by email at swindoll@genespage.com.

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