Content provided by All Things Maroon – A MSU and SEC blog.
After experiencing their longest winning streak since the 1999 season, MSU fell hard at Alabama on Saturday night. State is now 7-3 (3-3), while the Tide improved to 8-2 (5-2). Bama seemed to have regained some of their swagger, but the Bulldogs lost a little bit that they had acquired over the past 6 weeks. Dan Mullen’s bunch, failed to earn MSU’s 3rd win in 55 years in Tuscaloosa, and Bama just continued their usual dominance over the Bulldogs. I know, sickening. If I hadn’t watched the game, and you would have told me that State would convert 50% of their 3rdDowns, and win the T.O.P. battle by 3 minutes, I would have surely thought the Dawgs would have won. But, 3 consecutive scoring plays on Offense for the Tide of 45, 78, and 56 yards, pushed State out of reach. Here’s my game notes from the match up:
(1) Defense Must Improve: All year, the Defense has been a question mark for MSU. Not necessarily the personnel, but rather whether we are putting our guys in position to make plays, and to win ball games. Many maypoint to tackling, which I admit is somewhat of a weakness for a few of our players on D. But, my problem lies in Diaz’s coverage schemes. Either #1, he is giving our guys way too much freedom when it comes to choosing the cushion they give their respective WRs, or #2 the blame is all on Diaz, because he is purposefully putting our guys in those costly coverage sets. Like I’ve mentioned earlier this season, it’s sad when all of us in the stands can see that we are going to give up a 1st Down, before the ball is even snapped. If you are an X’s and O’s guy like me, you know exactly who the ball is going to as well, which makes it even more sickening to watch. Not only does lining up 7-12 yards off a WR hurt you on underneath routes, but in another critical area-that Bama attacked last night. What’s that you might ask? Recovery. Let’s take a 3rd Down and 9 situation for this illustration. Whether you are in man or zone coverage, before the ball is even snapped, a Bulldog player is 7-12 yards off the line of scrimmage. On the snap, the DB naturally backs up to provide space and cushion to conform to the route, and almost automatically the WR has the chains in their favor, because of the pre-snap distance. You keep the Offense from scoring, but you give up 12 yds, when they only needed 9. Now, playing that deep hurts you in multiple ways. #1, you literally change the mindset of the Offenses’s ‘underneath’ passing game’s distance. The Offense goes from using 5-7 yd passes, to 10-12 yard passes, because the coverage is set so deep. Now, the area that Bama exploited so well vs State, was our inability to recover. So, #2 playing as deep as the Dawgs have in coverage, effects their ability to react to the ball, and minimize the damage. On the catch by Marquis Maze last night, the play should have went for 12 yards and a 1st Down, instead the kid takes it 45 yds for aTD. When you play that deep off the ball, it means you have to come up and make a play after the ball has been caught. With the amount of cushion we are providing, the receivers have already caught the ball, and then have the opportunity to adjust to either a flat footed DB, or one who is headed in his direction at full speed, which benefits the WR. We should be a 70/30 Man coverageD, but Diaz’s philosophy will not ever allow that. So, since we are confined to his style, we have to make adjustments. Shorten the umbrella, face-up WRs, and save the 7-12 yard cushion for Prevent situations, and most importantly, our Secondary needs to learn where the chains are, and expect throws within that vicinity. Also, If I were Diaz, Monday and Tuesday would consist of nothing but coned-pursuit drills and tackling basics. We were TERRIBLE in both aspects. I was really happy with how we handled the Bama run game, until it was over in the 3rd, and the Tide was eating clock. Alabama did nothing special, but we sure made them look that way.
(2) Time for the Relf/Russell Platoon: One thing is clear, to beat ‘true’ SEC elite teams like Bama, year in and year out, you have to be non-predictable on Offense. You can only run the read, the counter, the QB draw, and the option so much. We are so vanilla, that when we send a man in motion before the snap, the opposing D knows who’s getting the ball, and the magic is gone. What was supposed to be a wrinkle, becomes the evident. One thing is becoming more and more clear, and that is that our Offense needs something else. There are times when it makes sense to run the ball down a team’s throat all night, but there are obvious cases in which you have to know that you can’t. Mullen has mentioned the fact that he would like to see our pass production increase, but it’s clear that Chris Relf doesn’t have the potential to make that happen. In fact, if we know that we are going to throw the ball, why not put the ball in the hands of the better passer (Russell)? With that said, I know I have to defend Tyler’s play. Since the Alcorn game, Tyler has been held out of 2 whole games, and all but 3 plays in another. Very little playing time = very little experience = occasional mistakes. It’s simple math. Yall know that I’m a HUGE Tyler fan, but I have also been the unbiased critic that I have needed to be, when it comes to his shortcomings. But, as I said after the Alcorn and UK games, I feel that he tries to over-compensate when he finally gets the opportunity to see the field, because the time he is in is so scarce. As a Freshman QB, he needs the experience just to get the “Cloud 9″ game he had vs Memphis-out of his head. There are many areas of his game that he needs to improve on, but what Freshman in college football doesn’t? So, why should he play? (1) Russell is a 58% passer, he averages 9+ yds per attempt, and has a QB Passer Rating of 141.37. (2) The kid has lead long scoring drives in 2 of the nation’s toughest places to play (@ Bama and @ LSU, vs their 1st string). (3) He’s thrown 4 TDs and 5 INTs, and about 2 or 3 of those were clearly not his fault, while the others were terrible. (4) Tyler also has a much better ‘internal’ QB Clock, that all signal callers need, in order to sense pressure and get rid of the ball. That, is something that Relf sorely lacks. (5) Russell has thrown for 555 yds, in very limited action. The fact is, we can’t continue to try and play Clock Wars with the rest of our schedule. Teams know exactly what we are going to do, and it’s only going to get easier for them to stop us. I know a lot of coaches and fans are not proponents of platooning within a series, but how is that any different from running the QB to the sideline for a breather, when we go the Rabid Dawg? There is no difference, so why not bring in Relf or Russell-off the switch, and keep defense’s honest, by capitalizing on a different strength? Or better yet, surprise them and let Relf throw and Tyler run occasionally. That’s what it’s going to take to light a fire for our Offense. Both QBs have shown moments of extreme effectiveness in what they do…why not combine the two strengths? It’s time! Btw, the Relf INT was the worst pass of the year, and KILLED our confidence and a perfect scoring opportunity early on. Triple coverage Chris? The root of the problem is Koenning, who called for the pass on 1st Down anyway. I’ve never seen a guy abandon what ‘was’ working so well in the first place. Take over the play calling Dan, or hire someone who you can trust…please. And finally, I think we lose 30-24, ‘IF’ we would have brought in Russell 2 series earlier. That would have made us look much better.
(3) We are not THERE yet: The fact is, MSU has turned the corner, but not a Bama, or an LSU type corner. We are at the point where we can beat a great program on a down year, UGA and UF for example, where we can win almost all our home games, but not to the point where we match the Top teams in the conference for 4 quarters. We don’t have the mindset, the personnel, or the depth to do so. And as long as Les Koenning is calling plays, we may not have the coaching (Btw, we passed on 10 first downs last night…10). But, I think we are 2 years away from breaking into the top tier of the SEC. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy with 7-3, and where this year has taken us, but I’m just being realistic. We are losing some players on OL and at LB, that have been critical to our success. Saturday night was a perfect example of a top tier teamthat makes plays, and a team who is not there yet, and doesn’t. We commit stupid penalties, our coaches display poor play-calling, we drop way to many passes, and we have a lot to clean up before Arkansas.
Offensive & Defensive Standouts: RB Vick Ballard- 19 rushes for 80 yds; RB LaDarius Perkins- 8 rushes for 44 yds;QB Tyler Russell-4/7 for 80 yds, TD,INT; WR Chad Bumphis- 3 catches 44 yds,TD;WR Brandon Heavens- 3 catches 21 yds;WR Arceto Clark- 2 catches 44 yds. LB Chris White- 3tkl, 1INT; LB KJ Wright, S Nickoe Whitley, S Charles Mitchell- all with 5 tkls
- We are 7-3 (3-3 in SEC)
- We are Bowl bound…somewhere?
- We are better than we played on Saturday
- We are still ranked, #22 in AP, #21 in the BCS
SEC Week 11
UT Crushes Ole Miss, 52-14. At the beginning of the season, I mentioned that Nutt should play Nathan Stanley until the kid was worthy of being benched. I expected a down year for Ole Miss, and that move would have secured the fact that Nutt gave Stanley his shot, and then brought in Masoli for change. Nutt instead, put all his eggs in one basket, and has killed the confidence of Stanley, and just solidified the school of thought-that Nutt cannot develop a QB, even the likes of Jeremiah Masoli. I don’t see Nutt making it past next season in Oxford.
UF Let MeDown, 36-14. I was shocked that the Gators allowed the Gamecocks to come into the Swamp, with the East on the line, and do what they did. USC held the ball for 40+ minutes, after UF returned the opening kick off for a TD. 200 yds rushing for Lattimore. Spurrier lucks out on a week year in the East.
Auburn Runs Away from UGA, 49-31. It was close until the 4th. Cam Newton and Auby outscored UGA 28-10 in the 2nd half. Cam Newton is the best player in college football, just not the best ‘eligible’ player. I get tired of all the Newton worship. He is not a victim. Btw, I hope that in all this, Auburn realizes that we didn’t bring them into this, but rather Newton’s association with Auburn did. We are getting way to much blame, for making the right decisions and moves. There are rumors out there, but I’m glad that Stricklin has confirmed what we have released, and what we haven’t. I expect a new break in the story tomorrow. And DT Nick Fairley for Auburn, should have been immediately ejected for his hit on UGA QB, Aaron Murray. If in the NFL, he’d be forking over $30,000. Anyway, Auburn clinches the West.
Arkansas Rolls UTEP, 58-21. Mallet threw for 215 yds, 5 TDs; Kniles Davis ran for 182 yds on just 11 carries; 31 First Downs, and 577 yards.
Anyway, your thoughts on the SEC Weekend?
Should Tyler Russell get more playing time?
What were your thoughts about the game in general?