November 4, 2012 1:14:42 AM
Matthew Stevens - firstname.lastname@example.org
STARKVILLE -- It was clear the Texas A&M University defensive staff watched the beating Mississippi State University quarterback Tyler Russell took last week.
The No. 16 Aggies weren't set on duplicating the University of Alabama's performance, but with the Crimson Tide next on their schedule, they decided to inflict just as much punishment.
Texas A&M (7-2, 4-2 Southeastern Conference) allowed pass rushing specialist Damontre Moore to set the tome early, as junior defensive end threw Russell to the ground on the game's first possession.
Even though that play was the Aggies' only sack, the pressure and pain for Russell and the MSU backfield didn't stop. The Aggies defense, which had allowed 33.7 points per game against ranked opponents, controlled the Bulldogs by taking advantage of Russell's tendency to hold on to the ball to the last second.
"He just sits there, which is a good thing," Moore said. "It was all about preparation because we knew Russell was a poised quarterback and he doesn't get rattled too easily."
Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said he and his staff noticed a difference in Moore, who came to Starkville leading SEC defensive players with 10.5 sacks. He said the junior has been hindered by several nagging injuries.
"You just tell in pregame warmups he was going to have an impact early because he is getting healthier," Sumlin said. "When you start talking about the defenses you call, it's about who you're asking to make big plays in those calls. You have to give your exceptional players a chance to be exactly that, exceptional."
MSU was unable to establish a running game (18 carries, 58 yards), which made the Bulldogs (7-2, 3-2) one dimensional. The Aggies' offense didn't have any trouble, amassing 693 total yards.
MSU coach Dan Mullen is now 0-7 when the Bulldogs fail to rush for 100 yards a team.
Russell, who tied the single-season school record set by Derrick Taite in 1995 with his 16th touchdown pass of the season, was forced to shoulder the burden of the comeback in the second half.
"We had a good game plan and we had a good week of practice," Russell said. "It comes down to execution, and we didn't execute at all."
Knowing MSU was in all-pass play mode trailing 24-0 in the second half, Texas A&M defensive coordinator Mark Snyder allowed his defensive ends to dominate MSU's inexperienced tackles: sophomore Blaine Clausell and junior college transfer Charles Siddoway.
"We've been getting good pressure all year, and we as a staff understand how to attack basic protections," Sumlin said.
The play that defined the combination of confusion and physical intimidation brought to Russell was the fourth-down call where the MSU junior quarterback was nearly sacked by defensive end Julien Obioha and had to heave the football near a covered receiver.
"They brought a blitz," Russell said. "The play clock was running down, I didn't have time to re-direct the protection. I had to get out quick. I couldn't find anybody."
The overthrow of senior receiver Arceto Clark was just another opportunity MSU to crawl back into the game.
"You are not going to win any games if you don't score any games in the red zone," Mullen said. "You have to score touchdowns in the red zone."
It was the second-straight game MSU tried to rely on its Parade All-America quarterback in a league that tries to push offenses away from their strengths. Russell, who had 212 yards and a touchdown pass to Chad Bumphis, even threw his third interception with MSU driving
deep in Texas A&M territory.
"That was such a huge turnover for us not only in that game but overall for us as a team because we thought we'd have to get them to turn it over more," Texas A&M senior linebacker Jonathan Stewart said. "(Russell) doesn't make errant throws like that often, but we capitalized when he did today."