September 11, 2012 9:15:46 AM
STARKVILLE -- Jonathan Banks is making the most of his opportunities.
Through the first 47 minutes of the Mississippi State University football team's 28-10 victory against Auburn University on Saturday, the senior cornerback was challenged twice.
The nominee for the Jim Thorpe Award, which goes to the best defensive back in college football, answered the call each time by intercepting sophomore quarterback Kiehl Frazier.
"We've always thought we could compete with people in the SEC, beat people in the SEC, but it feels good to go out there and get a win against someone other than TSUN (University of Mississippi," Banks said Saturday.
The statistic is even more impressive when you consider Auburn's offense only challenged Banks three times all day. Banks has allowed only one catch for 21 yards this season.
"What you do by intentionally throwing away from a player, even if that player is John Banks, is making yourself one dimensional," MSU defensive coordinator Chris Wilson said Saturday. "By doing that, what we're trying to accomplish is make you beat us with your non-dominant hand. Not challenging somebody is a way for a offense to do it without any effort on our part."
In July, Banks spent his Southeastern Conference Media Days appearance trying to convince anybody who would listen to him that he was one of the best cornerbacks in arguably the best league in America.
"Did he really say that?" Mullen said Saturday when the topic was brought up. "That's good because he has never lacked for confidence."
Banks, the active leader in career interceptions in college football, notched his third career game with multiple interceptions in the 28-10 victory against Auburn at Davis Wade Stadium. If not for a misstep down the sidelines after the first interception in the first half, Banks would've had his fifth career defensive touchdown.
"I trust that if I'm going to lose a game and John Banks is the reason then I'll still sleep like a baby that night because he's done so much and meant so much to our football program," Mullen said.
MSU coaches said the defense was able to take Frazier, who had 18 yards passing in the first three quarters, out of comfort zone because of the "trickle down effect," which allowed the linebackers to let the rest of the defense know what was coming as Frazier shouted signals.
"It makes our job as coaches so much easier when (MSU senior linebacker) Cam Lawrence is signaling over his head every time they were calling a pass," MSU co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Geoff Collins said Monday.
Lawrence and sophomore Matt Wells figured out the Tigers' play calls, which enabled the MSU secondary to know how many players it needed at the line of scrimmage by the end of the first quarter.
"We have such a chemistry among what we call each of the three levels of defense (and an) understanding that their job is having the responsibility for everybody else," MSU secondary coach Tony Hughes said Monday.
The MSU defense, which three seniors and a junior in the starting
secondary, has five interceptions and has allowed opponents a SEC-worst 83 passer rating. The experience in the secondary gives the defense even more confidence as it prepares to face Troy University, which has the eighth-ranked pass offense in Division I (359 yards per game).
"The worst thing you can ever do is take a talent like that for granted," Wilson said. "I'm fortunate to have been in good places before but I've never taken the talent I have in our secondary right now for granted ever."
Quarterback Corey Robinson threw for 485 yards last week against the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, but the Troy coaches already know about Banks.
"As far as trying to match up one-on-one against a guy that's going to be in the NFL, that's not totally going to be what we're going to do,"
Troy coach Larry Blakeney said Monday. "We'll have four or five scalding down the field somewhere. I think you've got to run real precise routes and not tip your cuts. I think we'll be able to deal with them. Hopefully that won't be able to just shut us down. If they do we'll be in trouble."