Dominance. If you asked me to describe what I saw in one word yesterday, that would be it. State dominated aTm in every facet of the game. Even with the two garbage time TDs, it wasn't that close. When aTm chose to punt with about 10 minutes left in the 4th, Sumlin was waving the white flag. They didn't want anymore. Here's what I saw:
1. Ignore the numbers. Ignore the 31 points. Psych Defense played out of their minds. This unit OWNED aTm. They were everywhere. The reason the Aggie WRs dropped so many passes? They were hearing footsteps from out LBs and DBs. We brought the lumber to them all day, and it payed off in the form of drops. And for the second game in a row, they made a HUGE 4th down stop in the redzone early to change the momentum of the game. Oh, those 31 points the D gave up are still about 20 points under what aTm was averaging coming into the game. And if we hadn't given up the garbage time TDs, we'd have held them roughly 30 points under their average. Dominance.
2. I'll just go ahead and get my lone gripe out of the way: We have GOT to stop going prevent in the last 5 minutes on D. We are terrible at it, and we're giving up easy TDs. I thought Matt Wyatt made a good point about it during the broadcast being a mental issue. We're used to getting after it, bringing heat, and forcing teams to earn every inch. But in prevent, we're letting them have the yards to eliminate the big play. Stop. It. Keep bringing the heat.
3. We've all worried about our DBs and our pass D. You can stop worrying. This group was outstanding all day. They were right with aTm's WRs. They came up and made tackles. They jumped all over the bubble screens. Sure, they gave up 300+ passing yards, but you're going to give up yards to aTm's offense. They threw it 67 times, after all. But these guys answered the bell all day.
4. D-Block (D-Line) was unreal. They struggled getting pressure in the first half, but they dominated the Aggies OL in the second half. We sacked Kenny Hill 3 times. For reference, he'd only been sacked 4 times all season prior to yesterday. The depth of this unit just flat wore down aTm up front as the game went on. They were living in the backfield in the 3rd and early 4th quarter, generating serious pressure.
5. Will Redmond was a beast today. I've been hard on him this season, but that's because he has the talent to be elite. And today, he was. He led the team with 10 total tackles, 6 solo. He was physical all day and showed his speed. Got himself into great position. And he delivered an absolute slobberknocker at one point. Keep it up.
6. We generated 10 QB Hurries. That was huge, as we weren't supposed to sack Hill very much. But we made him uncomfortable back there all day, forcing him to move off his spot and rush throws.
7. Nick James had all of 1 tackle today, but don't be fooled. He was a beast for us up front. He gobbled up double and sometimes triple teams, freeing up his teammates on the DL. He got tremendous upfield push. And those high snaps aTm had problems with in the 3rd quarter that stalled two drives? Nick James. He was lined up right over the center on those plays as a classic 3-4 nose, and the center was worried about blocking him instead of making a good snap. Best game he's had so far.
8. Preston Smith continues to be a bad, bad, full grown man.
9. AJ Jefferson is a pass rush pressure specialist. It's fun watching him harass QBs every week.
10. Benardrick McKinney had a big time game today. He was all over the place. Go check out David Pollack's tweet about him in Bully's Growler. As an aside, I'd love to see the Houston Texans grab him in the Draft.
11. We're set at MLB next season. Richie Brown is awesome. 3 INTs, but more importantly, a force helping stuff the run. He's a cerebral player who puts himself in the right position to make plays. If he's not SEC Defensive PotW, we should go burn down the SEC offices in Birmingham.
12. I said prior to the game that tackling would be a HUGE key to this game. We had arguably our best tackling day on the whole today. We wrapped up quickly and got aTm's playmakers on the ground quickly, eliminating RAC/YAC and forcing the Aggies to sustain drives.
1. Jamoral Graham continues to show why we pulled his redshirt. He had the one mistake early, when he was being interfered with, but he shook it off and had a great day. That's serious mental toughness. I think he's going to break one for a TD before the season ends.
2. Hats off to Logan Cooke. Apparently Bell injured himself during warm-ups and Mullen didn't tell Cooke he was kicking until 30 seconds before the opening kick. He did a tremendous job all day. He kept aTm pinned deep and basically eliminated Noil as a return threat. He's going to be a stud for us sooner rather than later.
3. Kicking game still needs work. Someone just totally blew their assignment on the blocked XP. Couldn't quite tell, but I think the missed FG was also partially blocked. Just when I start to feel a little better about this area, we regress. But I do like that we've scrapped the competition and just let Sobiesk do his thing. I think he'll figure it out.
1. Another game, another 500+ total yards for the O. The balance was outstanding with 289 rushing and 270 passing.
2. Run the "Darn" Football Update: State ran 77 total plays. We ran it 51 times and passed 26. That's a 66/34 run/pass ratio. Right where I want to see it. We also averaged 5.7 YPC. That's crazy.
3. J-Beast: 17 carries, 107 yards, 2 TDs, 6.3 YPC. And it still wasn't enough carries for me. Feed the J-Beast.
4. I've been saying keep an eye on the Freds, particularly Fred Brown. His big TD catch today was a thing of beauty. Out-jumped then out-fought the Aggie DB covering him before displaying his speed and running away from the guy. I want to see him even more involved with the offense. Fred Ross had a couple really nice catches, but dropped his easiest reception of the day. It would've been a long TD, and it would have been nice to break 50.
5. Bear Wilson keeps getting better every single week. His routes were run better today, and he made a couple of really nice adjustments on the ball while it was in the air. He also bailed out Dak on a low throw for his TD reception. He makes big plays week after week. I can't tell you how excited I am about his development.
6. Major props to our OL. They dominated aTm's defensive front. They created nice lanes for Dak and J-Beast. Look at our Yards Per Rush for proof. Dak also had plenty of time in the pocket to throw. You wouldn't have known Day wasn't at center, as Beckwith never missed a beat. And Devon Desper did a good job at guard. This unit is better and deeper than most want to give us credit for being.
7. Dak gonna Dak. What impressed me about his performance today wasn't necessarily the numbers, although they were impressive. It was the intangibles. The Aggies march down the field and make it look easy for 7 on their opening drive. Crowd is a little stunned and quiet. Dak immediately takes us on a 7 play, 75 yard TD drive of our own to answer. Then in the 3rd quarter, aTm scored a TD to tighten up the game a little bit at 34-14. 5 plays and 75 yards later, Dak hits Fred Brown to finish off another TD drive. That score was the dagger for aTm. Folks, that's Heisman stuff. It's what the elite QBs do for their teams.
8. Tubby Lewis was a surprise scratch with a leg injury. Uh-oh, right? Wrong. Gabe Myles and Smokey Graham stepped up and answered the bell. Honestly, you didn't even notice that Tubby was out. Myles in particular impressed me. He displayed good hands and excellent speed. But what I saw is he was more decisive and got north-south faster after the catch. And his pass to Dak was really nice. We're going to be just fine at the slot for years to come.
9. As a whole, this is by far the deepest WR corps we've had at MSU. Everyone can step up and make a play. Even without Lewis, 9 different WRs caught a pass yesterday.
10. Stone Hands Morrow made a really nice play. He's starting to make me believe he's finally flipped the switch. He'd be another nice, big redzone weapon.
11. I loved the play with Myles where Dak ran a speed option with J-Beast to his outside shoulder and Myles coming back across the formation to Dak's inside. Dak fakes the pitch to J-Beast, then pitches it inside to Myles. Myles takes it for a big gain, catching aTm out of position over-pursuing Dak. Great call from Mullen there.
12. Offense was pretty good on 3rd down, going 5/11. Not the 50% or better I was hoping to see, but still an improvement. 45% conversion rate still puts you in the top 25 nationally in 3rd down conversion percentage. We stayed on the field and limited the number of possessions aTm had.
1. Overall, coaching was outstanding. We slowed down one of the nation's most explosive offenses over the last 2+ seasons. We generated pressure on D and kept the Aggies from breaking the big play. Offensively, we stuck to the run chewed clock, and stayed on the field. You could see how fresh the D was in the 4th quarter.
2. I love the excitement the Juice Boys bring to the sideline. They're always wide open cheering, waving their towels, etc.
3. We committed just 3 penalties all day, and I think just 1 pre-snap penalty. Players were focused and executed extremely well.
4. Our crowd was OUTSTANDING. Arguably the best game atmosphere I've seen at DWS. The only other 2-3 games that come to my mind are 2000 Florida and Auburn and 1999 TSUN. It was loud, raucous, and intimidating. Still need to work on being quieter when we're on offense, though. I noticed Beckwith signaling the crowd to be quiet once when we were inside the 10. Also, good job with "ringing responsibly." It was awesome to hear the cowbells, then hear them suddenly stop and the yelling pick up when the center went over the ball. Best part for me was the crowd getting into the European style chant. More please!!! We need to be that electric times 100 for Auburn next week, even if it will be a 230 CBS game.
5. I want to single out the students. You guys KILLED it today. Got in the stadium early and were loud and rowdy all day. The pre-game improv maroon-white cheer was super cool. And I particularly enjoyed how you started and embraced the European style chant. Most importantly, you never left. It was awesome to see J-Beast and Cox jump up into the stands with you after the game. Just like the rest of us....THAT times 10 next Saturday.
6. Best moment of the day was the tribute to Jack and the Missing Man Formation Flyover. Gave me goosebumps. Never thought I'd see that in person. Hats off to Keenum and Stricklin for making that happen.
7. Wrap It in Maroon and White!
That's how I saw it. What did you guys see? You know the drill. Fire in the hole!
In Mullen We Trust,