The secondary really stepped up and made some plays today. Was it just a matter of confidence as Coach Cooper keeps talking about?
"Yeah, the confidence comes with reps. The first couple of games we knew what we needed to do but we just needed the reps so that we could practice what we preached. Now that we are getting more reps, I think the nation will see how good this secondary is going to be in the future."
It really seemed like you guys were reeling a little in the second half. You were a little short-handed in the secondary. Were guys getting a little winded at that point?
"Of course, we were getting a little winded, but Coach always says, in the fourth quarter, you have to have playmakers."
Talk about the big sack that Pee Wee (Slovakia Griffith) had.
"I didn't really get to see it until I saw it on the jumbotron because we were in man coverage. My man ran a fly, so I was on top of him all the way but I heard it. It was big and a momentum shifter that we needed. Coach has been saying that all year, that we need to have people step up in crucial situations and that is what Pee Wee did."
Talk about how important the improvement of the young players in the secondary has been for the team.
"You can't even measure it because it is so big. At first, there was a lot of bad talk about the secondary because everybody was young, but I believe in the future, State will have one of the best secondaries in the nation. Something that helps us is going against our offense most of the week, going against great receivers like Justin Jenkins, McKinley (Scott) and Ray Ray (Bivines). Those guys are great. Going against those guys everyday in practice have to make you better."
Are you guys getting more comfortable with each other?
"Yeah, at first (Quinton) Culberson and I were battling for the same spot, so we had a little rivalry going on, but when we played our first few games and got to stay in the hotels together, we got to know each other and each other's background. Now there is nothing but encouragement from both ends."
You guys were playing mostly a nickel package today.
"It was a different look that we had been working on in practice all week. It was just a different look to throw things off a little bit. They call their plays late and they came in late, so we would show one coverage and jump into another one the last minute to get us in the best position. That is one of the coach's schemes and I think his schemes are working even better now."
You gave up a lot of yards (568) but you had to make a few stops when you had to make the stops.
"Playing against a good tailback like that, he is going to have those because he is a good back. But there was a time where you knew you had to stop them and everybody stepped up and stepped up big today. When we needed the stops, somebody made them."
Talk about tackling the punter when he fumbled the ball near their goal line.
"He tried to give me an outside move, but then the dude kind of like blocked me but I got back on top of him and put him to the ground. My job on the punt team is first to contain to make sure the ball is kicked and there is no fake, but when I saw him bobbling the ball, I thought that he might try to fake it or try to run it, so I just tried to keep outside containment, but it just happened that I got a tackle."
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.