Mississippi State defensive coordinator Manny Diaz is able to joke right now with his players that a 180-pound defensive back is tied for the team lead in sacks.
Sophomore cornerback Johnthan Banks was able to sack Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton last Thursday and after two weeks the Bulldogs defensive back is one of three players with one sack.
“We’re not afraid to send anybody after the quarterback and sometimes those little guys are hard to block,” Diaz said. “That was a big play in the game no doubt about it, but then I get to remind our defensive lineman that he’s tied for the sack lead.”
None of those three players with a sack (Banks and defensive tackles Fletcher Cox and Devin Jones) include a defensive end or linebacker, which is not characteristic of Diaz’s past defenses that have been predicated on pressuring the quarterback.
“Look the reality is we can play but we got to do it all the time,” Diaz said. “We are not nearly creating enough negative plays. We’ve had opportunities to tackle behind the line and create turnovers but that’s what wins ball games.”
After Diaz watched the tape of the 17-14 loss to Auburn, he said what he saw was a phenomenal talent in Newton exposing the fundamental flaws of his squad’s transition to his more aggressive-style of defense.
“A fundamental is a fundamental," Diaz said. "A great player or a great athlete will expose a lack of fundamentals. How you rush the passer, whether you're playing Cam Newton or playing C.M. Newton, is the same."
With LSU struggling in the passing game entering its home opener, Mississippi State (1-1) will try to slow down the Tigers running game that’s led by tailback Stevan Ridley as the junior from Natchez is averaging 120 yards per game.
“If we make negative plays, we win the football game," Diaz said. “We have not established that identity yet and I'm eager for that to occur.”
Ridley had 159 yard on 17 carries in a 27-3 victory over Vanderbilt last week after struggling with fumbles a week ago and the road Tigers needed him as junior quarterback Jordan Jefferson struggled again to complete only 8-of-20 passes for 96 yards and an interception.
“I think he's looking forward to putting together a string of quality games together, and he's due,” LSU head coach Les Miles said. “He's a good person. He worked hard at it, and (the fumbles) bothered him. I'm glad that things are going in the right direction, and they need to stay that way."
Last season LSU’s rushing attack had its lowest yardage total in seven years by averaging only 123 yards per game less than four yards per carry. The ironic thing about Miles’ style for the 2010 LSU squad is the Michigan graduate that coached in Ann Arbor under Gary Moeller is using the mantra of former Ohio State head coach Woody Allen when the Hall of Famer once said “only three things can happen when you pass (a completion, an incompletion, and an interception) and two of them are bad.”
“I think always being able to run the football makes a difference,” Miles said. “Yes, when we are running the football, we all know it. We understand that, that is a great indication of victory."
Stricklin not satisfied with cowbell behavior Thursday night
In his weekly column on the Mississippi State athletic website, athletic director Scott Stricklin made a point about the behavior of the fans involving the ringing of the cowbell.
In his Wednesday Bulldog Update piece, Stricklin pointed out that the ringing can be done more responsibly throughout the entire game in certain sections of the stadium.
“We can do better, especially our students,” Stricklin said. “Ultimately, we must do better if we are to maintain this tradition.”
In an August athletic directors meeting in Orlando, the Southeastern Conference decided on a fine structure for violations of the rules on illegal stadium sounds with $5,000 for the first offense, $25,000 for the second and $50,000 for the third and beyond.
On June 4, the league’s athletic directors and university presidents have voted to approve a temporary change to the policy on artificial noisemaker rule by allowing Mississippi State fans to walk through Davis-Wade Stadium with a cowbell.
The modification to the policy officially allows fans to use a cowbell only at Scott Field for the first time in 36 years during pregame, halftime, between quarters, timeouts, after scoring plays and during possession changes.
“We knew full well this would be an educational experience and that adherence to the policy would not be immediate,” Stricklin wrote in his weekly column. “We have provided signage outside the stadium reminding our fans to ring responsibly, and video messages on the board inside the stadium directing our folks on the appropriate times to ring. We even have a constant message in the upper right corner of the board so there should be no question when it is OK to ring.”
A.J. Green’s appeal hearing set for Friday
Georgia All-American wide receiver A.J. Green will have his appeal hearing Friday to find out if the NCAA will cut down his four-game suspension.
The NCAA penalized Green for selling his Independence Bowl game jersey for $1,000 to someone it considers a sports agent; that man is Chris Hawkins, a former cornerback for North Carolina and Marshall from 2001-2003.
The Morgan County (GA) Citizen is reporting Hawkins was arrested last year during a highway stop in Georgia, and was charged with the felony charge of trafficking cocaine and along with possession of marijuana. He spent 20 days in jail before posting bail, as is scheduled to appear in court in next month.
According to multiple reports UGA officials have said Green was introduced to Hawkins by UNC defensive end Robert Quinn, and Hawkins agreed to buy Green's jersey after the men exchanged messages on Facebook.
Green, the 6-foot-4 target that is rated of the top receivers in the nation, is projected as a possible top-five pick in next year’s NFL Draft.
If Green’s suspension is held up by the NCAA appeal board, Georgia (1-1) will be without him for the next two games including its road contest against Mississippi State (1-1) next week that will kickoff at 6 p.m. on Fox Sports Net.
UGA head coach Mark Richt said he’d hoped to hear from the NCAA earlier about the school’s appeal on Green’s behalf but has now shifted his focus toward the active players on his roster as they host No. 12 Arkansas this Saturday.
“Finally, I realized I just needed to relax, not worry about it and let them tell us whatever they want to tell us whenever they want to tell us,” Richt said on the SEC teleconference Wednesday morning.