Football

MSU defense trying to stop outbreak of big plays that’s led to back-to-back losses

Mississippi State (7-4, 3-4 in SEC) is currently fourth in the Southeastern Conference. Ole Miss (4-7, 1-6) is the worst in this category.

Mississippi State gave up only 15 plays over 20 yards during a perfect 5-0 month of October.

Conversely Mississippi State has given up 11 plays over 20 yards while losing back-to-back games to start the month of November.

Mississippi State’s defense has allowed five scoring plays over 45 yards in its back-to-back losses to Alabama and Arkansas.

However, if you listen to Bulldogs defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, what concerns him the most is the defense has had two distinctly different problems in those two contests.

The issue in Tuscaloosa was the difficulty in tackling the Crimson Tide stars in Mark Ingram and Julio Jones on their long touchdown breakaways.

MSU defensive coordinator Manny Diaz

“Tackling issues are frustrating but that’s at least a two-person issue – the guy that’s tackling and the guy we’re trying to tackle,” Diaz said. “The issue against Arkansas was assignments and it didn’t matter who we played, we’d have left that guy open.”

Thanks to the great people of cfbstats.com, the statistics posted at the top of this blog show the difference in defensive big-plays given up during the an undefeated month of October and the first two games of November.

The Bulldogs have given up 68 points over the past two games. Diaz said his players were out of position too often against Arkansas, and compared finding the correct defensive alignment to when his student-athletes fail a test because they weren’t properly prepared.

“We got the answers wrong before the play even began,” Diaz said. “Once the play started, we had already lost. You have to give yourself a chance. They can ask you 61 questions and you can get 59 right, but even if you just miss two it makes it really difficult to win.”

The SDN Bulldog Blog has done a little homework to find out Ole Miss has 58 offensive plays that went for over 20 yards in 11 games this season with Rebels quarterback and Conerly Trophy nominee Jeremiah Masoli accounting for 35 of them.

Rebels head coach Houston Nutt also has a tendency for using trick plays like the halfback pass to Masoli that resulted in positive yards last week at LSU. In an emotionally charged Egg Bowl matchup, Diaz suggests that the more disciplined football team will be extra important Saturday night.

“We tell our players that great players have great eyes,” Diaz said. Trick plays work against teams with poor or wandering eyes. They present a lot of eye candy to get your eyes distracted with all the emotions going into this game, it is more important to put your eyes in the right plays.”

All of the SDN Bulldog Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.

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About sdnmsu

Mississippi State Beat Writer for the Starkville Daily News.

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