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The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Williams brings balance to the offense

Noah Siano
Mississippi State vs LSU Gallery

“I didn’t even know what was going to happen,” Mississippi State University running back Aeris Williams said Saturday night. “I didn’t know if I wanted to truck him or just go over him, so I just went over him.”

Entering the weekend, the story surrounding SEC matchup between LSU and MSU was the prolific running of LSU’s Derrius Guice. However, after the 37-7 MSU victory, the hardnose running of MSU’s Williams stole the spotlight.

Blowing through the Tiger defense for 146 yards on 23 carriers, Williams proved MSU entrusted the starting running back position to the right player.

The coaches noted during the summer and fall camps that Williams made a conscious effort to put in the time and effort on the little things, like film review and mastering the playbook. 

Running back coach Greg Knox said Williams’ work ethic transcends his own play. As the leader of the running backs corps, Williams sets the example for younger and inexperienced players.

“We’ve talked a lot about leadership,” Knox said “I think he has taken that role, and he is trying to bring everyone along with him and that is part of being a leader. It’s not always about being vocal. It’s about getting others to play at a higher level, and I think that’s what he is doing. He’s reaching out to everyone to play at a higher level.” 

Williams, a junior from West Point, was quick to give credit to his teammates after the impressive win, understanding football is a team game at its core.

“I just thank my offensive line.,” Williams said. “My offensive line was handling business. That’s the only reason that I had as many yards I did.”

The Bulldog offensive line, while talented, was inconsistent during their first two games against Louisiana Tech 

University and Charleston Southern University.

These inconsistencies can be attributed to three starters Elgton Jenkins, Stewart Reese and Darryl Williams being moved to new positions from last season or starting for the first time.

However, against LSU, the offensive line worked    as a collective unit to give quarterback Nick Fitzgerald time. In the running game, they noticeably drove LSU defenders out of their way. 

“They started believing in themselves, and we started believing in each other out there on the field, so we know what we can do,” Williams said. “We just go out there and execute on every play.”

Head coach Dan Mullen was also very complimentary of his front five. Mullen said he knew the game was going to be decided in the trenches.

“I thought they did an excellent job,” Mullen said. “I thought they came out at a pretty high level. They had some great talent on the defensive line. I was really proud. I wanted to come out and run the football, and they executed and we were able to do that.”

Williams’ remarkable running adds balance to the Bulldog offense. Last season, Fitzgerald rushed for more yards than the top three running backs combined. The imbalance allowed defenses to key in on Fitzgerald and made the offense one-dimensional. 

Williams alleviated the pressure off of Fitzgerald, most notably on a third and one near midfield in the third quarter.

The Bulldogs capitalized on the game changing running by Williams, and lured the Tigers into committing to stop the run on the third down.

Fitzgerald said after the game he was positive LSU was not going to give them the right look and he would have to audible to a different play. However, LSU loaded the box with nine players and brought their safety extremely close to the line of scrimmage to aid in run support. As the ball was hiked receiver Keith Mixon faked a block and streaked wide open down the field. The trap had been sprung.

Fitzgerald faked the handoff to Williams and dropped the ball perfectly in stride to Mixon, a redshirt sophomore from Birmingham, Alabama, who ran untouched into the end zone. After the game Mixon laughed about how the ball seemed to hang in the air indefinitely. 

“I was just trying not to drop the pass because I was so wide open,” Mixon said.

After redshirting his freshman year, Mixon had a productive 2016 season finishing fourth on the team with 228 yards receiving and two touchdowns. However, as a veteran on the team Mixon knew it was his time.

“I just had to stay patient. I pray about it every night and I’m not greedy, but I knew my time was going to come and I was just waiting for my number to be called,” Mixon said

The win earned MSU national attention and their first appearance in the top 25 this season. In the USA Today coaches poll they are ranked No. 19 and in the AP poll they came in at No. 17.

The MSU offense outscored their first three opponents by an average of 38 points. 

The Bulldogs hope to see this continue as they head to Athens, Georgia, this Saturday to play the No. 11 University of Georgia Bulldogs (3-0). The game will be at 6 p.m. and ESPN will televise it.

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Williams brings balance to the offense