MSU secondary preps for pass-happy Arkansas

Mississippi State’s talented, veteran secondary is prepared for

a rare sight in the Southeastern Conference – a true pass-happy

offense.

The Bulldogs (5-5, 1-5 SEC) visit sixth-ranked Arkansas (9-1,

5-1) on Saturday with the Razorbacks averaging a league-leading

311.3 passing yards per game – more than 60 yards better than

Tennessee, which is second.

Mississippi State’s Corey Broomfield said stopping the

Razorbacks will certainly be a challenge, but it’s also a welcome

change from the power running games so common in the SEC this

season.

”We played Alabama this past week and they probably ran the

ball about 180 times,” Broomfield said. ”Now you get a chance to

do what you like to do, you get to cover guys. You don’t have to

tackle big 250-pound running backs every play. It’s a great

opportunity.”

Broomfield and the Mississippi State secondary will have to play

its best game to stop the Razorbacks. Quarterback Tyler Wilson has

plenty of targets, including senior Jarius Wright, who leads the

SEC with 906 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns despite missing a

game. Joe Adams, Chris Gragg, Cobi Hamilton and Dennis Johnson all

have at least 20 catches, making it hard for defenses to focus on a

specific part of the field.

Wilson has thrown for 2,850 yards, 18 touchdowns and five

interceptions while completing 61.7 percent of his passes.

Arkansas’ receivers ”do a great job of attacking the ball,”

Broomfield said. ”On 50-50 balls, they’re gonna come down with it.

Hopefully we’ll do a good job of battling with them and we’ll have

a different result.”

Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox wants to help

the team’s secondary by putting pressure on Wilson in the pocket.

Cox and fellow defensive tackle Josh Boyd have combined for 16 1/2

tackles for loss and 7 1/2 sacks this season.

”Arkansas, I mean, they do what they do,” Cox said. ”They do

it well. They’ve got a real good offense, real good receivers.

Across the board, they’re experienced.”

Mississippi State’s secondary took a hit last weekend when

safety Nickoe Whitley was lost for the season because of a ruptured

Achilles tendon on his left foot. Whitley was second on the team

with four interceptions in nine games.

While Broomfield might be excited about the matchup with

Arkansas’ offense, Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen was a little

more reserved. The Bulldogs are giving up 185.6 yards passing per

game, which ranks fifth in the SEC. Their 12 interceptions –

including five by cornerback Johnthan Banks – are also tied for

fifth.

”We’ll see,” Mullen said. ”Facing three big-time receivers

with a quarterback that knows the system and has a lot of

experience getting it downfield is not the most exciting thing in

the world … It’s certainly a challenge for us, for our guys on

the secondary that they need to step up, and they’re going to have

to make a lot of plays in this game. It’s a good judge for them to

see where they’re at.”

The two teams are quite familiar with one another after Arkansas

won an entertaining 38-31 game that went to double overtime in

Starkville last season. The Razorbacks have won 11 of the past 12

games in the series, but Wright said the Razorbacks weren’t taking

anything for granted.

”Definitely one off the most physical teams I’ve faced each and

every year,” Wright said. ”We’ve watched a little film on them,

and the guys play hard and they have athletes.”

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AP Sports Writer Kurt Voigt in Fayetteville, Ark., contributed

to this report.

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