November 10, 2013 8:46:59 AM
COLLEGE STATION, Texas - WHAT WE LEARNED?
- Johnny Football is really good
Mississippi State defensive coordinator Geoff Collins said earlier in the week that last year Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel snuck up on his defense as a premier player. In 2013 maybe he and the rest of the MSU staff may have to admit he's just that good.
As the frontrunner to defend his 2012 Heisman Trophy, given to the nation's best college football player, Manziel piled up 493 total yards and six touchdowns in a 51-41 victory over the Bulldogs Saturday afternoon. A year after Manziel racked up 440 total yards last year in Starkville as he was building his momentum as a nationally recognized figure, he went for a career-high in touchdown passes and led the No. 11 Aggies (8-2, 4-2 in Southeastern Conference) to 26 plays of 10 yards or more against a confused MSU defense.
Mullen described defending Manziel as almost two separate plans that have to be perfect: the regular A&M offense and the controlled crazy of Johnny Football's version of backyard football.
Manziel made his mark Saturday night mostly when whatever play A&M called broke down and fundamentals with logic go out the preferable window.
The sophomore quarterback had just nine incompletions and 446 yards through the air against a MSU secondary that not only was ravaged with injuries but asked to stay in coverage for 5-10 extra seconds.
Texas A&M accounted for over 500 yards of total offense for the ninth straight game and earned more than 40 points for the 13th consecutive contest, both of which currently lead all NCAA programs.
In what was widely considered his final game at Kyle Field, Manziel dazzled the announced crowd of 88, 504 one more time with his improvisation as the sophomore refused to quit on a play despite MSU pressure. Manziel, who came into Saturday leading the SEC in total offense, passing yards and total touchdowns, constantly found ways to avoid blitzes and extended plays with what could be confused as panicking if he hadn't done such moves for 22 previous games.
As day turned to night in the last game played at Kyle Field before multi-million dollar renovations, A&M fans found themselves chanting "one more year" for Manziel in a desperate encore request from a fan base that hasn't seen anything of his skill level, showmanship and national relevancy.
- Special teams kills MSU again in big game
Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen could recall each special teams miscues Saturday in a 51-41 loss to No. 11 Texas A&M. And it's a good thing too, seeing as he doubles as their special teams coach as well.
"We can't have these types of things happen in critical moments of the game," Mullen said after his 15th straight loss to a Top 25 ranked opponent.
MSU had a punt blocked, field goal blocked, a roughing the punter penalty and a 100-yard kickoff return all costing them a total of 19 points in the program's eighth straight defeat away from Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville.
Mullen, who has made it a point of emphasis in his five-year head coaching career to be personally responsible for the special teams units at MSU and split the duties evenly among the entire staff, could identify with total recall Saturday the issues on all the errors in that department.
The first issue that hit MSU (4-5, 1-4 in Southeastern Conference) was another malfunction with punter Devon Bell standing in his own end zone.
In Bell's first ever attempt to punt in his own end zone, the sophomore dropped the snap two weeks ago against Kentucky resulting in a safety that kept the Wildcats close during MSU's narrow 28-22 victory.
In a 7-7 game Saturday with 90 seconds left in the 1st quarter, Texas A&M third-string free safety Sam Moeller broke through the middle of the Bulldogs offensive line to block Bell's punt attempt.
Since Sumlin took over A&M last year, he hired Jeff Banks as a special teams coordinator along with his duties as a tight ends coach. Mullen has been staunch in his consistent belief that a special teams specific coach isn't needed for his program.
Moeller was never touched on his path to the sophomore punter and nearly tackled Bell before his foot touched the ball. The football immediately ricocheted off Moeller and rolled beyond the end line for safety.
The play resulted in MSU's first blocked punt since Mullen's first season when Florida, Mullen's former employer, turned the trick in Starkville in a 29-19 win over the Bulldogs on Oct. 24, 2009.
In the third quarter, No. 11 A&M (8-2, 4-2 in SEC) got its second half opening drive extended when Deontay Evans nailed Aggies punter Drew Kaser for a obvious roughing penalty and automatic first down. Kaser rolled to the right for a rugby style kick but hd gotten the punt off long after Evans took a physical shot at the sophomore punter.
Following a interception by MSU junior cornerback Jamerson Love, MSU was unable to turn that momentum shift into points after a 40-yard field goal into the wind. Mullen the kick, which was into a stiff wind, was right on the end edge range of redshirt freshman walk-on Evan Sobiesk. The low line drive kick was blocked up the middle and Mullen chalked up that play to a solid athletic play by A&M's defensive front.
When MSU brought the deficit to just 10 points in the fourth quarter, it couldn't help but avoid one final special teams foul-up. A&M Trey Williams found a seam and broke two tackles on the way to a 97-yard kickoff return.
In a 10-point loss to a Top 25 ranked opponent, Mullen couldn't help but think some of those "big plays" made by A&M were in the third and sometimes forgotten element of football.
- Mullen proud and gets emotional when asked about Dak Prescott's performances
MSU sophomore quarterback Dak Prescott accounted for 303 total yards in MSU's 51-41 loss at Texas A&M Saturday just days after burying his mother in his hometown of Haughton, La.
Prescott had two touchdown passes that gives him 19 accounted for this season and ties him with Vick Ballard's 2010 mark for the fourth most on the Bulldog single-season record list.
Prescott's mother died last Sunday morning as Peggy Prescott lost her long battle with colon cancer and left three children with Dak being the youngest of the trio. Dak Prescott left the MSU program last week to be with his family prepare funeral proceedings that took place Wednesday.
On the night of his mother's funeral and burial services, Prescott returned to practice in Starkville and began to look over the preparations for the No. 11 Aggies (8-2, 4-2 in SEC).
Mullen said on his weekly radio show Thursday that Prescott would play but the MSU staff eventually decided to start senior Tyler Russell at quarterback. Prescott made his debut in the game Saturday on the Bulldogs third possession that resulted in a 51-yard touchdown run by Josh Robinson on the drive's first play.
- Prescott leaves game with injury
With less than two minutes remaining in the game, Prescott took a solid shot from Texas A&M defensive back Tony Hurd Jr., and was forced to take himself out of the contest while holding his left arm. Prescott would be holding his non-throwing arm as he left the stadium with the team following the loss. Mullen said after the game that he hadn't met with the training staff before the media conference and had no additional information on Prescott's injury.
- MSU senior LB Deontae Skinner ruled out with neck sprain
Mississippi State announced less than a hour before kickoff they would be without its leading tackler heading into Saturday.
Senior linebacker Deontae Skinner was ruled out by the MSU coaching staff with what was officially determined to be a severe neck sprain.
Mullen didn't mention him Monday when he gave the injury report as the senior leads the team in tackles with 50. Skinner had five tackles in a 34-16 loss last week at No. 12 South Carolina. Skinner has 3.5 tackles for loss, one sack and a interception in the 2013 season.
In the travel list submitted Saturday to the media by MSU spokespeople, Skinner was on the active roster and was scheduled to travel on the flight Friday with the team but was held back in Starkville following the injury. Skinner was using his Twitter account, Dskinner_11, during the game Saturday afternoon.
- MSU freshman WR De'Runnya Wilson has career game at A&M
Freshman wide receiver De'Runnya Wilson entered the game with 10 catches, 174 yards and a score this season. The former Mr. Basketball in the state of Alabama scored two touchdowns on seven catches for 75 yards Saturday. During the past two games, he has 10 catches for 115 yards.
Wilson, who was thought to be a redshirt candidate entering the year, the player nicknamed "Bear" has forced his way into the action after some highlight worthy catches in his first season of college football.
- Construction at Kyle Field begins now
Former President George H.W. Bush attended Saturday's game and waved to fans from a golf cart in honor of Texas A&M breaking ground on its renovation on Kyle Field. Construction on the $450 million upgrade began Saturday immediately after the Aggies 51-41 win.
WHAT WE HEARD?
Mississippi State head coach DAN MULLEN
"Give A&M a lot of credit. They have some big time playmakers. A lot of people coming into this game wouldn't think that Mississippi State would have more yards, but they had more points. A&M does a great job of improvising. They get a lot of yards outside of the framework of their offense, and they did that tonight. Giving up points right before halftime was a huge momentum killer. It has probably cost us a couple games this year. I am proud of the way our kids fought. There is nothing good about losing a game, but I am proud of the way our kids battled for four quarters. We are going to continue to battle, continue to fight, and continue to believe. We are going to need that down the stretch."
On Johnny Manziel...
"Manziel is so hard to defend. A lot of times we stopped their offense, but we couldn't stop him. All of a sudden, we would stop the offense and there he goes. He starts running from sideline to sideline, twisting around, juking one way, juking another way, and then all of sudden the ball gets launched 30 yards downfield. I'll be honest, there is no way to draw up a defense to defend that."
MSU freshman WR DE'RUNNYA WILSON
"Coach has been telling us all year to have accountability and trust. The team trusted in me, and I trust the team. Coach told us that big time players make big time plays, and I knew that we needed to go out there and make big plays. Every day I learn something new. I try to do the little things, and the little things take care of the big things."
MSU junior LB MATT WELLS
"A&M has a good team and Manziel is a good player. He can make big things happen with his feet by making the plays longer. We are going to have to find a way to close games. This takes a little bit out of us, but we just have to keep fighting which we did tonight."
Texas A&M head coach KEVIN SUMLIN
On the atmosphere in the last game prior to the Redevelopment of Kyle Field...
"How about that? How about the fireworks? That's a pretty good touch. Seen lot of things change here in the past couple of years. That was a nice touch at the end. I said on the radio show after the game, our players are extremely appreciative of our fans, former students, current students, the 12th Man. A great setting tonight, and everybody was a part of history. A lot of photos, a lot of pictures taken, this place will never look the same, it's a growth process, but for our guys to be a part of that, was a big deal and for our seniors it was a long-lasting memory, and it was really important to our team that our seniors left today with some good feelings and good memories that they can have for a lifetime."
On his class of seniors...
"I really break them down into three groups. You've got the guys who have been here for 4-5 years, that have worked through and seen a lot of different things. Played in two separate conferences, have been in some pretty big games in their career, both good and bad. You have a group of walk-on guys, guys like Travis Labhart, guys who have toiled around here in obscurity but have hung on and been on the team. Travis, he's earned a scholarship and now you see what happens with him. The third group is guys like Steven Jenkins and Derel Walker that group of guys, guys who are recent guys who were added as transfers or junior college transfers and it all blended into one group. There is one common thing about them, tonight was senior nights, and it's always emotional, there is no doubt that there were different journeys, different paths to get here, to where they are now. They're all going to leave here together and our job, as a team, was to make tonight a positive memory for them."
On Johnny Manziel's emotions...
"He was ready to play, just like a lot of people. Not really, he's a pretty emotional guy all the time. Nothing surprises me before the game with him. I'd be more surprised if he wasn't very emotional because that's how he plays the game. I think you see in situations like tonight, particularly on senior night, it's emotional for the guys who know this is their last home game, but also some guys who are younger really see and feel that emotion, like: "Wow, it's really coming to an end for these guys, and we're not going to be able to play and hang out." I think that hits the younger players, the older you get--because when you are a freshman, you think this is going to go on forever, and time flies by and the closer you get to that stage, you start thinking about, 'wow, that's me,' you see it in juniors, sophomores and the emotion really kind of snowballs from there."
On the play of Manziel and where the offense can improve...
"I thought he made enough plays for us to win, made some big plays, really critical plays before the half, I'm sure there's a couple of them I knew he really wanted to have back, trying to do too much a couple times, but he gave us a chance there. He had five touchdowns, for most people that's pretty good. We got to do a better, job, we turned it over, we lost the turnover battle today, we did a terrible job in the penalty department, at critical times. We had two turnovers going in to score, which you're giving away 14 points or 10 or six at the least. Yeah, we'd like to have those back, and we got to continue to preach that and get better - certainly with our opponents that are coming up."
Texas A&M sophomore QB JOHNNY MANZIEL
On the game today...
"It was awesome. Great atmosphere for our last home game of the year. It was the last home game for all the seniors who I've developed such a close bond with. They're all nothing but stand up guys from Jake Matthews all the way to Toney Hurd. It was an emotional day, but fun. Sawing them off with the crowd today was awesome."
On whether he thought about the possibility of this being his last home game ever...
"Not one bit. I'm just focusing on getting us to a BCS berth in the best bowl game we can get to. That's my only focus right now."
On the "One more year" chant...
"It was a cool deal for not only me, but Mike, Cedric, Deshazor, guys who are going to go on to play at another level hopefully, so it's awesome. Kyle Field is a special place. Nothing will be the same about Kyle field after today, and to leave that mark like we did today and to go out that way couldn't have been any better. It was really emotional and really awesome, and it really speaks volumes to how awesome this student body is and this fan base and how special everything about Texas A&M is. It's a really special place and I love it here."
On his legacy of records...
"I know that we have two more games left in the season to push those records and get more wins, which is more important than anything else. I'd rather have a great team record and a 10-2 season going into a great bowl game. All personal records aside whether it's for me, Mike. The defense, whatever it is, we just have to continue to push forward. We have two great tests left, playing against two really great teams, so we have to try and go out and scratch and claw and win those games to stay perfect on the road."
On Travis Labhart...
"He's one of my favorite people on the team, really just a solid, stand-up guy. I've been lobbying for him since I became a starter to try and get him on the field because I thought he was a special talent, and so far he's proven that this year. He goes out there every week and makes the most of every opportunity he gets. There's really no other way to put than just going out and balling every week."
Texas A&M junior WR MALCOME KENNEDY
On feel of the game...
"There was a lot of energy from the start. When we came out and heard how loud the 12th Man was, we just knew it was going to be a great game because of the energy that they bring to the team. Most people can't say that their home crowd is like that. Just coming out and feeling them and knowing it was the last game on Kyle Field before the renovation just pushed us."
On Mississippi State's size...
"When coaches tell us stuff like that, we as players blow it out of proportion and we have this imagination that makes them way bigger. Everybody is a football player out there, and Alabama was pretty much the same size. Of course when size is compared to speed, one of them is going to win, and
tonight it was speed."
On touchdown ...
"It was initially a ten-yard dig across the middle. Normally when I get past the first defender I look back at Johnny and he either looks ready to trigger and throw or like he is going to scramble. He just jumped out of there like he normally does and escaped his defender and I just got to a nice spot that he could hit me safely without an interception and I decided to make a play out of it."
"It was just making mistakes, especially penalties. Penalties put us in a situation where we have to call things that are out of the norm. It's harder to deal with those kinds of calls and plays. We fumbled and messed up on our own. It's just something that we deal with and manage and thankfully tonight it didn't cost us the game."
On potential Johnny Manziel's and Mike Evans' last game
"We've created so many memories. It's so much bigger than just those two. The coaching staff came in and we embraced them and they set us on this road. Having those guys out there it was fun watching them, everybody would love to see them back here again but you've got to make some decisions in life and it was fun playing with them."
Texas A&M senior WR TRAVIS LABHART
On last home game as senior...
"It was something I'll remember forever. A lot of family was down for the game. All week I was trying to have my best week of practice and really stay focused. As soon as we got on the bus from the hotel I just really started thinking about the ride over there because we take it for granted. The spirit walk was just outstanding. The whole process of game day was great but when you get out there on the field you want to perform at your best and luckily I was able to do that today."
On this season...
"You always want to be involved. You always want to be a guy and not just somebody who sit there on the side. That is something that I really tried to work on during off-season. I did a lot of work, there are so many things you train for and work for. I started out this year as a backup for Mike, so I knew I wasn't going to get much playing time there. You just keep plucking away and hope for your opportunity, and luckily I was able to get that. It's just been a blessing going out every night and playing your hardest regardless of the score sometimes. Knowing that you did your best to help your team is humbling."
On Johnny Manziel...
"He is such a great guy and great leader. I'm going to miss the heck out of him because this is my last year. It was just a great environment. Those fans are second to none. I laugh every time I hear them yelling because they are crazy- good crazy. There is nobody else in the college world that is as good as they are so it was a cool experience."
On playing with Johnny Manziel...
"I absolutely love it because it creates opportunities for me. I'm not the fastest guy but I can be shifty and hard to follow. It is fun; it's a great offense. We still have not put a complete game together. Johnny is just a great quarterback, obviously one of the best. I'm lucky to be able to have him as a quarterback because a lot of people don't have an opportunity to catch passes from a guy like him."
Texas A&M senior DB TONEY HURD JR.
On last game...
"It was great. From the beginning of the day I had so many emotions. It actually didn't hit me until I came out and they announced my name. It's a great moment to be able to play in front of that crowd."
On Mississippi State players...
"On offense they had a lot of great skill-position guys. They came ready to fight and they weren't going to give up until the clock it zero. They fought hard but at the end of the day we came out with a 'W' and that was big for the senior and our team moving forward throughout the season."
On defensive progress...
I've seen a lot of progression from the younger guys, learning the defense and understanding what Coach Snyder is trying to do with his schemes. Guys like Donnie Baggs have stepped up for us. A lot of linebackers have stepped up for making big plays, us allowing us to go base and nickel and even penny sometimes. It's just a great situation for us to come at the end of the year."
No. 1 Alabama (9-0, 6-0 in SEC)
- MSU now must rebound from its losing streak of the season to host two-time defending champion Alabama next week at Davis Wade Stadium. The Bulldogs haven't come within 17 points of the Crimson Tide since beating Alabama 17-12 in Nick Saban's first year as head coach in 2007.
The top-ranked Crimson Tide flashed its overwhelming punching power to knockout No. 13 LSU in Saturday night's 38-17 victory Saturday, scoring the final 21 points in punishing fashion. AJ McCarron threw three touchdown passes, T.J. Yeldon ran for 133 yards and two scores, and the Tide (9-0, 6-0 Southeastern Conference) turned to smash-you-in-the-mouth football to take control of a game that was tied early in the third quarter. Yeldon carried 18 times in the second half, 25 overall.
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.