If you can defend the pass you have a chance to slow down Texas A&M’s high-powered offense.
LSU, which ranks second in the SEC in pass defense, beat the Aggies in the season opener. So did Florida, which ranks fourth in the league defending the pass.
A&M redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel will have his work cut out for him again Saturday when the 16th-ranked Aggies (6-2, 3-2 in SEC) travel to Starkville, Miss., to face No. 15 Mississippi State (7-1, 3-1).
The Bulldogs also rank in the top five in pass defense in the SEC, allowing just 194.4 yards a game. They have a veteran secondary that starts three seniors, including All-America Johnthan Banks.
The SEC West matchup will certainly present a stiff test for an A&M team that averages more than 305 yards passing a game.
“Your concern is that this is a really, really good secondary,” Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin said. “Not only is this a good secondary, it’s an experienced secondary. You’ve got three seniors and a junior and an All-American in Banks. These guys have played a lot of football and been on the field with a lot of good players. They have a lot of experience in the back end.”
Despite the praise for the Mississippi State defense, Sumlin has no plans to try and change the way Manziel plays Saturday. Manziel, who has been the SEC freshman of the week five times this year, will still be allowed to make things happen with his arm and his legs.
That’s not exactly what Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen wants to hear.
He realizes how difficult it is to slow down Manziel, who is 30th in the country in rushing (99.1 yards per game) and 19th in passing (277.0 yards per game).
“You have to play very sound,” he said. “You have to make tackles in the open field. They have a lot of talent, not just at the quarterback position. They have very talented running backs and big receivers, fast receivers. There are a lot of mismatch problems. You’ve got to do a good job of containing it.”
Mullen said it will be up to his defensive line to keep Manziel in the pocket and no allow him to scramble, which is where he become a dangerous running option.
One thing Mullen isn’t too concerned about is A&M’s fast-paced offense. He said the Bulldogs have faced teams like that before so the adjustment won’t be a difficult one.
What will be important for Mississippi State is maximizing its possessions on offense, regardless of how long the drives take. Mississippi State can’t get into a scoring contest with the Aggies, who have outscored them by 100 points this season.
“It is very important we try and create some drives with the offense,” said Mullen. “We need to try and control the tempo of the game and not keep throwing our defense out there really fast. We have to put some drives together and control the clock.”