April 14, 2012 12:52:05 PM
STARKVILLE - Whether it was disguising the coverages or creating havoc in front of the Mississippi State University quarterbacks, the defense had a lot of fun Friday night in the third scrimmage of the spring season.
Darius Slay intercepted starting first-team quarterback Tyler Russell three times to lead a strong defensive effort at Davis Wade Stadium. In 27 possessions, the first- and second-team offenses managed only four touchdowns and a field goal.
The former Itawamba Community College star will likely see a lot of snaps this fall at cornerback. While a lot of the talk after the two-hour scrimmage was whether he'll overtake the incumbent starters (either Johnthan Banks or Corey Broomfield) at cornerback, what has been realized throughout the spring season of workouts is the Bulldogs will likely find ways for all three athletes on the field with the first-team defense.
"I know Tyler and how he likes to throw the ball so I was just ready to make plays tonight," Slay said. "I hid coverage from him and when you hide coverage with the cornerback, it's easy to make plays."
Slay's last interception was the most impressive as he read Russell from behind a receiver and then leaped up to make the catch on the errant throw. Russell clearly never saw the 6-foot-2 cornerback on that play and admitted as much after the scrimmage was over.
"I'm really excited about Mr. Slay and he's really in his element when he's in man (coverage) and can get close to receivers," MSU defensive coordinator Chris Wilson said. "He's also a really good tackler and he's making a push to start at that position."
The MSU coaches are continuing to get frustrated with Russell's big-play nature as a quarterback. MSU offensive coordinator Les Koenning is trying to implant into the junior quarterback's head that as he put it, "it's not bad to punt."
"The one that was really bad was the one over the middle," Koenning said, referring to an underthrown deep ball early in the scrimmage. "He's got to get out of that mentality that the deep ball is the only way to throw it."
Prescott finished 13 of 27 for 154 yards and an interception.
"We started off really good and got complacent on the sidelines - can't do that," Koenning said. "The sign of a really good football team is to constantly do it. There are no good calls - it's all about the people making the plays."
Here are a couple of nuggets that I picked up from the near two-hour workout
- Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen was not present at the scrimmage and the reason is more than a good one. He and his wife Megan welcomed a daughter into their family Friday and both of them stayed in a local hospital after Megan gave birth to their second child earlier that afternoon.
- MSU redshirt freshman safety Taveze Calhoun returned a fumble 40 yards for a score to close the evening's scoring. The fumble followed a catch from senior wide receiver Chad Bumphis over the middle. Calhoun took the ball and outran every MSU offensive player to the end zone.
- Redshirt freshman wideout Joe Morrow provided the offensive highlight of the night early in the second half, snagging a pass with one hand, spinning off Corey Broomfield and outracing the defense for an 82-yard score.
"We got some quarterbacks that can really throw it and I'd like to think I'm one of the receivers that can go get the football," Morrow said. "I tell them whenever you're in trouble then just throw it up and either we'll both get in trouble or I'll save us from the heat."
- The MSU running game was inconsistent but particularly tough to watch on option runs as linebackets Fernando Bohanna and Deonte Skinner lined up LaDarius Perkins for monster hits on the pitch.
"I feel like we came out a little slow but our turnovers helped us out big time tonight because I don't think we were great in the middle," Skinner said. "It boosts you up a little bit after one of those big pops."
- The offensive line was inconsistent again with the first and second-string lineman allowing seven sacks throughout the evening. In a majority of those sacks coming out of MSU blitzes, Russell and backup quarterback Dak Prescott were unable to get to the final step of their drop before being touched by a defender.
"A lot of those guys are learning but they got to speed up," Koenning said. "It really wasn't with the first line - it was the second line. (Dylan Holley) was snapping the ball on the wrong cadence and we don't know why right now."
The next practice is Tuesday starting at 4:30 p.m., which is of course, open to the public.
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
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