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MSU can't stop Ole Miss' up-tempo attack

 

Matthew Stevens

 

OXFORD --¬†Mississippi State University defensive coordinator Chris Wilson said it best Saturday night after an embarrassing 41-24 loss to archrival University of Mississippi. 

 

After allowing more than 500 total yards of offense to another spread-option offense based on no-huddle tempo, Wilson diagnosed what has been ailing MSU's defense this season. 

 

"We have a tempo issue," Wilson said. "That's an issue we have to deal with before we go into a bowl game to get these fixed. We have to fix them in the offseason, and there's no excuse not to." 

 

MSU (8-4, 4-4 Southeastern Conference) has faced three opponents -- Troy University, Texas A&M University, and Ole Miss -- that use tempo and speed to confuse defenses. Each time, those teams have blitzed the Bulldogs for big plays and plenty of points. All three teams gained at least 527 yards of total offense and averaged 6.5 yards per play. 

 

MSU coach Dan Mullen, who suffered his first loss to Ole Miss since taking the job in Starkville in 2009, didn't have many answers after the game, but he promised the issues would be addressed. 

 

It remains to be seen whether those answers will come in the form of personnel changes, scheme changes, or a new way to evaluate players. 

 

"We'll evaluate that in the offseason," Mullen said. "We'll evaluate where we are as a program and how we can improve that in the future." 

 

Quarterback Bo Wallace teamed with wide receiver Donte Moncrief seven times and torched MSU for 173 yards and three touchdowns. 

 

"He's a decent player, and what happened was he made plays and we didn't," MSU senior cornerback Johnthan Banks said. "They executed their offense well and we didn't do nothing on offense or defense." 

 

Moncrief tied the school record with three scores. His 173 yards were a career high for the sophomore. It was a reversal from the 2011 Egg Bowl when Moncrief had just 20 yards in MSU's 31-3 victory in Starkville. 

 

"We were going against one of the best secondaries in the country, but I think we have some of the best receivers and playmakers," Wallace said. 

 

MSU entered an emotionally charged Vaught-Hemingway Stadium ranked sixth in the SEC in allowing just 56 plays of 20 yards or more this season. 

 

In its first road game of the season, Troy had MSU out of position and lined up incorrectly before the football was snapped. The Trojans used short passes and yards after the catch to pile up 349 passing yards. 

 

MSU's inability to tackle hurt it against Texas A&M, as freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel had 440 yards. 

 

On Saturday, the Bulldogs allowed six plays of 20 yards or more against Ole Miss (6-6, 3-5). Five came on passing plays and were due to miscommunication in the secondary. 

 

"Moncrief made some really good plays out on the boundaries tonight," Wilson said. "We're attempting to be more aggressive in our coverages to be more close (to receivers), and when those occur, you're either really good on those plays or you're not. When you're not, they become explosive plays." 

 

MSU will have at least a month to try and patch together a game plan for a bowl game. It also will use that time to prepare younger players not to make the same mistakes in 2013. 

 

"These guys need to know what they put in wasn't enough," Mullen said. "You have to put in more."

 

 

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