After attending the Maroon vs White game tonight, I've come away with hope for this team and its fan base. Dan Mullen has instilled discipline, focus, and tradition in this football team. This was immediately obvious from the pre-game warm ups and on. I saw a team that was ready to play, a team that was, well alive. This was seen by the announced 31, 606 people in attendanc.
I went to the game ready to take notes. I seceded to just jotting down players that stood out. It wasn't long before my mouth dropped as Tyson Lee threw a bomb to start the game. I'm not sure who caught the deep seam pass, but if i had to guess, I would say Leon Berry. Tyson's only major fault from the night was him locking in on Berry. It was a great connection, however, as Leon Berry was smooth and reliable the whole game.
Berry was not the only WR that stood out. #81 O'Neil Wilder made some great catches. The converted track star made a name himself from early on. He used amazing concentration to catch a tipped ball in the first quarter. He made the play. How many times have you heard that here. He made the play. He later added to his attempts to make Chris Relf look good by catching a deep ball. He had to come back on the route, leap up and reach over the DB's head to catch it, but he made the play. His only problem, so far, is that he is slow off the line. You will recognize him because he is the only receiver that puts his hands up to beat press coverage at the start of every play, regardless of coverage. Another WR that played well was Terrance Davis, #19. He has a great spin move and seems to be a slot WR. Tyson seemed to feel comfortable with him.
Chris Relf played well enough. I initially was getting more excited over Relf than Lee, but as I watched Relf, I just became dissapointed in the waste of athleticism. Chris Relf, at 6'3" 235 pounds has prototypical quarterback size. Problems do exist, however. When i saw him warmup, I noticed that he threw the ball with no zip. I was confused but i wrote this off to "just warming up". On the sideline, he threw the same way. Slow release, all upper-body and no drive from his legs. His deep ball was slow and off target. When he steps into his throws, its a mere placement of his outside leg forward and not a forceful step for strength.
There was great defensive line play by both teams. The man that stood out the most was pass-rushing DE, #99, Sean Ferguson. Ferguson routinely blew by ROT #76 Philip Freeman, who is more of a road grader. Ferguson was too speedy for him. Ferguson had two sacks in three plays. The one play he didn't get a sack, he penetrated into the backfield and chased Relf into another defender. Ferguson stands 6'3" and weighs in at 245 pounds. He has reportedly gained around twenty pounds since last season.
Dear all state fans, please welcome our kicker. Thats right, we have one! #37 Sean Brachle kicked a 48 yarder in-game and a went 1 for 2 from 57 yards during a kick competition. It was fascinating to see, especially after the kicking woes our football program has experienced over the past few seasons.
The player that stood out to me most was Wilder (WR #81), but my backup favorite was the TE. Kendrick Cook, #88, stands 6'1" amd weogjs om at 250 pounds. He was a great red zone threat with at least one touchdown. Maybe you noticed his extra large shoulder pads. He looked menacing. With the ball in his hands, he wouldnt hesitate to run over you.
At the end of the game, it was tied 21-21 with the white team moving down the field. Backup QB Riley Saunders threw the ball to his left. It was a deep throw but he came up significantly short. I wouldnt expect to see any worthwhile playing time from him this season, especially if he doesnt put on some weight. He only weighs 180 pounds and would get crushed by the brutal SEC defenses. On that same drive, he threw an on-taget pass that was tipped into a defenders hands. The maroon team's offense picked back up from there with new-comer Aaron Encalade under center. Encalade is a journeyman JuCo QB who has always dreamed of playing for Miss. State. Encalade threw excellent short to intermediat throws to TE Cook, but never had a throw over ten yards, so I cannot comment on his deep ball touch. He seemed to put no effort needed into these throws and they were extremely accurate. He is still, at best, third on the depth chart behind 2 Relf and 1 Lee. Encalade was mobile in the pocket and "ok" at running his 240 pound body, but he had the sloppiest hand-offs i have ever seen. It was as if he ran into the back every time he handed it off, with two hands too.
The big thing this weekend was that Mullen wanted to get the students back into the football games. I praise him for this. He has a few new traditions, and some we are already familiar with. The "Dawg Pound Rock" will be re-instated. If youre old enough, you may remember the special teams dance from the late 90's before they would take the field. That is the "Dawg Pound Rock". It's back!! :)
This is an older video of the "Dawg Pound Rock", maybe you remember our special teams and Kanzaki Jones.
Another new tradition is that after every win, the team will stand in front of the band and listen to the band play the Alma Mater. Great move, Mullen! You offically have me excited about Bulldog football in 2009 and beyond.
Please comment anything you saw that I didn't.