Defense: Grantham's unit has another strong effort for MSU

MSU defense celebration
Staff Writer

Mississippi State has a new look on the football field in 2017 and few statement wins can mean as much as defeating a ranked opponent in a Southeastern Conference opener at home. 

First year defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s defense held the LSU Tigers to only 270 total yards, aided in part by an MSU offense that ate clock and gave time for Grantham’s group to rest. The Bulldog defense buckled down after allowing a second quarter touchdown, to shut out the Tigers for the entire second half. 

Coach Dan Mullen said following the win what stood out the most for his MSU defense was not giving up the big play downfield. 

“They’ve got some skill players out on the outside and I think on the back end, we did a good job of avoiding the big play and we didn’t give up the big shot play,” Mullen said. “They are a run, play action team and they ran the ball with some physicality … but we didn’t give up a shot down the field.”

The defense also helped the Bulldogs win the time of possession battle, by a margin of 35:55 to 24:05. 

Pressure from the defensive front made the biggest difference in the Bulldog’s 37 -7 victory over LSU on Saturday night. LSU quarterback Danny Etling was rushed out of the pocket multiple times throughout the night and was left with no choice but to make forced throws on the run. 

Nose guard Jefferey Simmons came away with seven tackles and 1.5 sacks for the evening – helped out by Marquiss Spencer – and played a crucial role in a pass rush that kept LSU off balance the entire night. Defensive linemen Braxton Hoyett and Fletcher Adams also made noticeable contributions to the pass rush and made life miserable for Etling. 

Simmons told the Starkville Daily News the lone score by the Tigers in the second quarter was met with a locker room adjustment by the MSU defense.

“Starting out, they did score, and we had a misalignment and had we not had that, they never would have scored,” Simmons said.” We fixed that at halftime and after that we shut them out.” 

Simmons said Grantham’s motto to his team is “no mas,” or “no more” in Spanish.

“That’s what we do,” Simmons said. “We finish the game and don’t let up on nobody.”

Hoyett said the home win was big for the team’s defense, but after Saturday night, the focus will be put on traveling to Athens next week to take on Georgia. 

“(The win) was big, this is our home turf,” Hoyett said. “We lose here, we have to run stadiums for every loss.” 

Bulldog linebackers helped pin down a talented LSU running attack, but also made contributions in the pass rush.

Leo Lewis and Dez Harris led the way in tackles for MSU linebackers, with eight and six, respectively. 

LSU was only able to get on the scoreboard once, with the MSU defense holding the Tigers to only 133 yards on the ground. LSU’s star tailback Derrius Guice was met with a strong push throughout the night, gathering only 76 yards on 15 carries to lead his team in rushing. 

The offensive struggles for LSU were also noticeable in the passing game, with Etling being restricted to only 13 of 29 for 137 yards and no score. 

Safety Mark McLaurin led the secondary and defense in tackles for the night, netting nine total with four solo tackles. 

Safeties Brandon Bryant and J.T. Gray also each had a pass deflection for the night.