Peeps, the Battle for the Golden Egg will commence tomorrow. The Dawgs will invade Oxford on a quest to retain control of the Golden Egg Trophy. What will they need to do to make that happen? Here's what I think:
1. Run. The. Damn. Football: I won't even bother with the euphemistic "darn" this week. Coming off a win over Vandy that saw State re-commit to the running game to the tune of 50+ rush attempts and a 65/35 run/pass ratio, the Dawgs will need to continue that trend. We all know that the Confederates are talented but undersized on the DL. The teams that have beaten them so far have lined up and run it right at them between the tackles. State must do the same thing on Saturday. I want to see another day of a 65/35 split and 50+ team rushing attempts. Dak Prescott and Josh Robinson each need 20 carries. Mullen can't get impatient or bored if we struggle to run early in the game. He must fully commit to pounding it down the Confederate throats. They'll be really tired of trying to tackle our guys by the 4th Quarter.
2. Stop the Run: Let's be honest here - The BearSharks don't really run it very well and are a finesse passing team. But completely eliminating the threat of the run and making them one dimensional will make life that much easier for the Psycho Defense. If they don't have to worry about the rush, they'll be free to pin their ears back and constantly rush Bo Wallace (or whoever is at QB, should the rumors regarding Bo's ankle be accurate).
3. Create Pressure With the Front Four: The Black Bears spread you out with receivers and love to throw quick hitting routes to get the ball out of Bo's hands. Sacks won't be nearly as important on Saturday as pressure and QBHs. Get in Bo's face and he will start throwing it up for grabs or forcing balls, leading to turnovers.
4. Avoid Turnovers: State cannot give extra possessions to the BearSharks offense. The BearShark D is one of the elite teams in the nation at forcing turnovers. At one point this season, they had a streak of nearly 40 games in a row with a turnover. Dak needs to be careful with the ball and throw it away instead of trying to force the ball in to make a play. TSUN thrives off of QBs doing that. Taking care of the ball will be critical.
5. Be Physical: As I pointed out above, TSUN is fast but undersized on D and their OL is pretty soft. We must turn this into a street fight in the trenches. Take it to them on every play. Walk the fine line of being extra nasty but not dirty. Keep hitting to the echo of the whistle.
6. Weather the Early Storm and Control Emotions: It's well know that TSUN gets sky high emotionally at home. They will come out on fire and play like men possessed. Plus, with them out of the championship picture at this point, they will want nothing more than to wreck our title chances. The first quarter will be an absolute war, and it wouldn't shock me at all to see them grab an early lead. But eventually they'll have to come back down and play football on an even keel. We have to weather their emotional storm and keep it close or be ahead when that happens. We also have to understand they will do everything possible to bait us into silly fouls with extracurricular hitting, shoving, etc. It's imperative we control out own emotions and not get baited into making stupid mistakes.
That's the advice I'd give if I were coming up with the battle plan for Saturday. March right into the Vaught and be the bigger bully. Hit hard, expect no mercy, and take no prisoners. In a series where home field advantage has meant everything in the last 20+ years, it WILL NOT be easy to win there on Saturday. But we certainly have the team to get it done. Should be fun to watch.
In Mullen We Trust,