One of the biggest points of contention with regards to the defense in the offseason was the lack of aggression. Chris Wilson ran a defensive scheme that had MSU sitting on its heals rather than getting after folks. Things have been different thus far with Geoff Collins.
The Bulldogs defense already has 27 tackles for loss this year (on pace for 88). In 2012, they only had 64 all year. The defensive line has gone from way under-performing to one of the best in the SEC. It's not just a new coach, it's a new approach - aggressive play. The down lineman are not sitting back waiting to see what happens, rather they are charging forward with a full steam ahead.
Right now MSU's front seven is daunting to go against. And it's not just because of the guys listed on the starting roster. The D-line is legitimately 10 guys deep, and the linebackers will be seven deep when Bohanna is cleared to play. If Collins wanted to he could take the entire DL and LB units off the field and sub in the 2nd group and there would hardly be any drop-off. When you're trying to fly to the ball and create plays by being aggressive, this type of depth is exactly what you need.
So far so good as far as the defense goes. The Dawgs have proven to be a pretty good group, however, the competition is about to get ratcheted up a notch. LSU will bring in a potent offense that will be a huge test...hopefully the aggressive play continues.
A million things have been said about the Mississippi State offense this year. I won't address the aggressiveness from a schematic standpoint, as that horse has been beaten to death. This is more as it relates to aggressive play-calling during different points in the game, especially the 2nd half.
The Auburn game is obviously the main sore spot when it comes to aggressive play calling. I think we really cost ourselves the game when we got TWO turnovers at midfield and instead of going for the throat against a defense that was coming back on the field unprepared (due to an unexpected turnover), we played conservative and ultimately go 0 points from those turnovers. That just can't happen.
Then, of course, playing not to lose. Instead of sticking with your game plan and trying to move the ball we sat on it hoping to just eat clock. On the road in the SEC you can't do that. And against solid teams, especially ones that have a more talent on the field than you, you've got to take some chances and stay aggressive, even with a lead.
Sometimes I think winning that game in the Swamp in 2010 like we did really caused this strategy for Mullen. We ran it and ran it and ended up winning the game, and then Mullen was 29-0 with a lead going into the 4th quarter so I guess it can be hard to second guess his strategy there, but it was bound to backfire at some point. Hopefully the lesson has been learned, and if and when we get another lead in one of these close games we stay aggressive on offense and play to win.
Being aggressive is very important against LSU. If somehow we get a lead we cannot rest on our laurels...we must continue to attack. That means on offense not just trying to eat clock, and defensively we can't sit back in a zone and be picked apart. And to get a lead, we will probably have to take some chances by being aggressive. Go for that interception, take a shot down-field, etc. Keep the petal to the metal, we are the challenger, we must be aggressive.