The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Backs against the wall, Diaz, defense stand strong

Despite the 0-2 SEC record, defensive coordinator Manny Diaz is pleased with the way his half of the Bulldogs’ team has played when it is put in tough situations.
“We have a funny knack defensively this year where we really respond when our backs are against the wall,” Diaz said.
The defensive showing against LSU was a prime example of a defense that would bend but not break. The turnover bug struck the Bulldog offense, leaving the defense facing six drives that started at the LSU 45 yard-line or better.
Despite the good field position, LSU only found the endzone one time in those situations, and kicker Josh Jasper became one of the most important players as the Bulldogs held LSU to five field goals.
Senior linebacker K.J. Wright, who recorded 12 tackles in that game, said he has no problem with opposing offenses getting the ball in favorable situations.
“When our offense, they put the ball on the 50, that’s fine,” Wright said. “We just have to go out there, keep playing and prevent them from getting into the end zone.”
Keeping teams out of the end zone in unfavorable situations has become a trademark of Diaz’s first Mississippi State defensive unit. In three games so far this season, opposing offenses have started at the opposing 42-yard-line or better 12 times. Only twice has the good field position resulted in a touchdown for the offense.
In those drives, opposing offenses average 15.3 yards per drive, compared to the 37.9 yards per drive average when they start from the 40 yard line or back. Part of that difference is due to the fact that there is less field to drive when the offense starts in good field position, but there is still a wide gap between the two situations.
Diaz has noticed the difference in his defense and is hoping to see the defense respond to good situations when they take on Georgia on Saturday.
“As a coach, you admire our fortitude when we’re put in tough situations, but you would like us to be able to respond when we have a little bit of an advantage,” Diaz said.
One of those situations was LSU’s first offensive drive of the second half on Saturday. Trailing 12-7 and with momentum on the Bulldogs’ side after a long touchdown drive, LSU got the ball at its own 40 yard line on a kickoff out of bounds. While starting at the 40 is considered good field position for the offense, it was still the second-worst starting field position in the entire game.
The ensuing drive was one of the defense’s worst drives of the year according to Diaz, as the Tigers marched down the field in seven plays and scored on a 16-yard touchdown run by Jordan Jefferson. The case could easily be made that the drive was the turning point of the game, as LSU cruised to the win from there.
“The first half was back to the wall stuff, which really wasn’t a shock,” Diaz said. “Then we come out in our first drive of the second half with a little momentum and the offense scoring a touchdown. The kickoff didn’t help, but even still the ball is on their side of the field and we come up with probably one of our worst drives of the season.”
If the Bulldog defense can buckle down in the average (though backs against the wall is starting to become “average”) situations like it does on the wrong side of the 50, it may be enough to push the team over the hump of getting its first SEC win of the season.
For Wright, the job is the same no matter where the opposing offense gets the ball.
“Our job is to keep the offense from scoring,” Wright said. “If our offense struggles, it’s our job to go out there and prevent the other offense from scoring.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Reflector Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Activate Search
The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University
Backs against the wall, Diaz, defense stand strong