Mississippi State is a much better team than the surface may lead you to believe. This isn’t a game you can look past because they don’t have a number next to their name (though they should.) Head Coach Mike Leach, Will Rogers, and the Air Raid offense will require the most out of this defense.
MS State will likely control the time of possession battle, dragging drives out. Memphis had the ball for over six minutes in the first half of their matchup against the Bulldogs. The defense will be out there, constantly tested, and given many opportunities to mess up.
When speaking with sophomore EDGE defender Sai’vion Jones, it’s clear that the message being shared this week is discipline.
“Our goal is to be as disciplined as possible. You can’t go in there without being disciplined. Not having good eyes, having bad feet, that could end up costing the team the game.”
It’s the first SEC game of the season, practice has amped up for everyone involved, having such a different look this week than the last two. Jones has taken notice of the harder preparation for this game.
“It’s now the SEC, so you know, every [game] counts, they’ve been getting on the scout team a lot to make sure that they replicate everything they do to give us the best look possible,” Jones said.
Playing new schemes means putting more emphasis on things this week than others. Knowing what will give you the best advantage possible.
“[Defensive Coordinator Matt] House has emphasized a lot that this week is going to be about getting our hands up and then we [have to be able to block passes.] That’s a game changing thing,” Jones said.
Though it is something new, House’s defense naturally comes with many looks. That’s something that Jones feels gives them an advantage.
“I feel like we have a good advantage with being able to adapt to new things like. That’s a very unique offense, but I feel like our defense will be able to adapt to them really fast,” Jones said.
Transfer Junior cornerback Mekhi Garner backed up that sentiment when talking to us about this game and what he thinks their defensive versatility brings.
“It’s just showing something that the quarterback isn’t probably used to, locking in on showing different disguises throughout the game,” Garner said.
Garner and the rest of the defensive backs on the team have a big test coming towards them. The Bulldogs are likely to throw the ball around 60 times this game.
“I don’t look at it as a problem, I see this as another opportunity for us to showcase our skills as a unit,” Garner said.
The defensive back unit has been one of the more consistent parts of this team through two weeks. Though, not good enough to be celebrated, according to Garner.
“We’ve been good, we’ve been ok. I feel like we still have a long, long way to go before we can ever say that we [live up to] DBU if you ask me. So I mean, like just day in, day out, we just have to keep grinding,” Garner said.
That isn’t Garner tearing himself or the guys down, it’s clear that the room knows what expectations come with wearing that jersey.
“It’s all about holding ourselves to that standard, or even higher. The opportunity to come here and play as a defensive back for LSU is once in a lifetime,” Garner said.
This is a new group, though, and growing pains are expected. But progress has been good, the players are starting to click on how they can become one.
“We’re learning how to play with each other, learning how to communicate. We have a better understanding of what we’re supposed to do in the back end, understanding the calls. I feel like we’re slowly but surely coming together,” Garner said.
It’s no secret what lies ahead of this defense, but the defensive backs have accepted the challenge and are ready to prove they belong. Another national television appearance gives them an opportunity to right the wrongs from week 1.
“[This game] is truly on us. Definitely another way for us to show our skills off and just so that we are who we are, and that is wanting to be the best secondary in the nation,” Garner said.