By JOEL COLEMAN
On Saturday night in Auburn, the Mississippi State defense starred. No individual shined brighter than Bulldog linebacker Richie Brown. For his efforts, the Southeastern Conference announced Brown as its defensive player of the week on Monday.
Brown was a key component in MSU’s 17-9 victory over Auburn. The Long Beach native registered career highs with 13 tackles, three tackles for loss and two sacks against the Tiger offensive attack.
“(Brown’s) athleticism really showed,” Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen said of Brown’s efforts at Auburn. “He was running (to) the ball and not just making the tackles and making those inside plays, but his ability to go run plays down on the perimeter, I thought, was fantastic.”
Brown was able to help slow down a determined Auburn rushing attack. The Tigers ran for 201 yards in the game, but mustered just three field goals.
“Auburn has a good offense,” Brown said. “They had a simple run-the-ball-hard scheme. You just have to understand what they are doing. You have to know what the coaches are trying to do and how they’re trying to get yards and really just capitalize on that.”
Brown was able to take advantage of the opportunities Auburn presented. Of Brown’s tackles, 12 were of the solo variety, tying for the most by an SEC player in a conference game this year.
“We have a big emphasis on (one-on-one matchups) in practice,” Brown said. “Making open-field tackles is a big deal. (Defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Manny Diaz) has really emphasized that since he’s been here. He emphasizes great tackling and just being very efficient with tackling.”
The most impressive component of the Bulldog defense that Brown spearheaded on Saturday was MSU’s red-zone stinginess. Four times Auburn got inside the Bulldog 20-yard line. Twice, the Tigers came up empty handed. On the other two trips, Auburn managed just a pair of field goals.
“I think that’s just kind of what our mindset has been at Mississippi State since we’ve been here,” Brown said. “We might bend. We might get knocked back sometimes. That’s going to happen in football. But we’re not going to break. That’s the mindset from the strength staff, to the coaches. That’s how we practice. When bad things happen, we get back on our feet and stop the next drive.”
Brown hopes the Bulldogs can post similar results this week as Mississippi State travels to Texas A&M. Playing the Aggies brings back good memories for Brown. In last year’s meeting against Texas A&M, Brown also won an SEC defensive player of the week award as he collected three interceptions.
“That was an exciting game,” Brown said. “I try not to focus on that too much though. I don’t want to get caught in that hype. I just want to focus on having a good game this game. I’m sure (Texas A&M) will be very careful handling the ball this year. I’m sure that’s an emphasis for their team this week. So I’m just going to help my team the best I can this week and not focus on (last year) too much.”