Knowing The Enemy 2014--Mississippi State
by Bryan Follins
The Mississippi State University Bulldogs come to Tiger Stadium Saturday with a perfect 3-0 record this season. Their victories have come over Southern Mississippi, Alabama-Birmingham, and South Alabama. The victories are actually part of a six game winning streak which extends back to the 2013 season. Seven defensive starters return from last season for the Bulldogs. This contest will be the first league game for both teams.
Offensively, the Maroon and White are led by junior quarterback Dak Prescott. The Tigers are very familiar with the Haughton, Louisiana native. In the 2013 meeting between the schools, Prescott passed for 106 yards and ran for 103 against the Purple and Gold.
Prescott has rushed for more than 100 yards in two games this season, against Alabama-Birmingham, 111, and for 139 against South Alabama. He has thrown for over 200 yards in all three games this campaign. He has thrown for a total of 696 yards in three games with nine touchdowns and two interceptions. Prescott has a touchdown reception too. He has already accounted for over 1000 yards of offense.
Mississippi State returns three senior starters on the offensive line. They are center Dillon Jay, 6-3, 305 pound left guard Ben Beckwith, and 6-7, 315 pound left tackle Blaine Clausell.
Junior running back Josh Robinson is the leading rusher on the team. Robinson has run for 288 yards and three touchdowns in three games this season. He averages 6.3 yards per carry, 96 yards per game, and has scored three touchdowns. Robinson and Prescott have accounted for 561 yards on the ground this year.
Eight Bulldog receivers have four or more receptions on the season. The man with the most catches this year is senior wide receiver Jameon Lewis. He has 10 grabs in three games, but has not caught a touchdown. Sophomore wide receivers De’Runnya Wilson and Fred Ross have the most touchdown receptions with two apiece. Lewis has 107 yards in completions, and sophomore Fred Brown has 104 yards in catches this season.
State has won games by the scores of 49-0 over Southern Mississippi, 47-34 over Alabama-Birmingham, and 35-3 over South Alabama. They give up an average of 80 yards rushing per contest, and 283 in pass receptions per game. The Bulldogs gave up a whopping 435 yards in the air to Alabama-Birmingham.
Junior middle linebacker Benardrick McKinney, who stands at 6-5, and weighs 250 pounds, is the leader of the defense. McKinney has 20 tackles overall, 11 unassisted, with two sacks. Sophomore outside linebacker Beniquez Brown has 15 total stops, 10 solos, with 3.5 tackles for losses, including a sack.
Preston Smith, a 6-6, 270 pound senior defensive end, has been named SEC defensive lineman of the week for his first three games this season. It is the first time someone has won this honor in the SEC for three consecutive weeks. Smith has nine total tackles in three games. However, he has two sacks, a forced fumble, two interceptions, and a blocked kick in three games. Sophomore defensive tackle Chris Jones, 6-5, 308 pounds, has two sacks on the year, and he has not started some games.
Mississippi State has given up a minimum of 200 yards per game through the air in all three of their games, but they counteract this problem in other ways. For instance, the Bulldog defense has 11 sacks after three games, with five interceptions, and four fumble recoveries.
As a team they have 28 tackles for losses, tfls, on the season. This is an average of 9.6 tfls per game, good for seventh in the nation. McKinney has five tfls, defensive lineman Preston Smith three, with two sacks, and two interceptions, defensive lineman A.J. Jefferson 2.5 tfls, and defensive lineman Nelson Adams two tfls and a sack, to name a few.
The Bulldogs know how to get into the backfield of their opponent.
This contest will be the most difficult for the Purple and Gold so far this season. Unlike Wisconsin, the Bulldogs have more players who can cause more problems. There is no doubt, at the end of this game, both teams will know a lot more about themselves.
This is a conference game. The Tigers will have to play well. They will have to find a way to win, whether it looks pretty, or ugly. They just have to get the W.
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