Normally our gameday preview runs on Fridays. But this week, our gameday preview is in the form of a Q & A with SBNation's Mississippi State website, For Whom The Cowbell Tolls. For more information about the Bulldogs, be sure to visit them.
1. Is QB Chris Relf any threat to throw the ball? Are his 295 rushing yards mostly the result of designed plays?
He is enough of a passing threat to keep the defense somewhat honest and prevent them from just stacking the box on every play. Most of his passes seem to be short routes or screens and you will rarely see him just toss up a long ball unless he has someone wide open.
Most of his rushing yards are coming from option looks. You will see us run Relf a lot out of a triple option type formation, where he can hand off to the full back up the middle, keep it himself or toss out to the half back. He is also not afraid to just tuck it and run if he sees his passing options dwindling and a big hole open up in front of him.
2. What type of running back is Vick Ballard? Who does he compare to?
Ballard has really become our work horse on offense. When we started the season, you saw a lot of equal time between Ballard, LaDarius Perkins and Robert Elliott. In the last few games, there has definitely been a swing of momentum to using Ballard about 75% of the time, with Perkins and Elliott coming in for short periods.
Ballard is definitely a pound-it-out type runner. He lists at 5-11 and 215 pounds, but you always see him hitting the line, finding the hole, and getting in the endzone. He is the SEC's leading rusher in touchdowns this season with 12. He also has some speed in the open field and can turn the jets on down the stretch. I would probably compare him to a slightly smaller version of Anthony Dixon.
3. Mississippi State is allowing about 18 points per game. They also limited Auburn to 17 points. Is there a particular reason why the Bulldogs have been so good on defense this season?
Manny Diaz. Carl Torbush left to join Turner Gill in Kansas and Dan Mullen set out to find a defensive coordinator with as much energy and enthusiasm has he has. Manny Diaz come to Mississippi State from Middle Tennessee and has brought with him a fast, blitzing style of defense. He will blitz from just about anywhere at any time and, so far, it has been successful.
We also have great playmakers on defense, like LB Chris White, who will play sideline to sideline all game long, and Corey Broomfield, who leads the nation in INTs returned for touchdowns. Also, our D-line is tough, physical and 2 deep.
4. The Bulldogs have won three consecutive games and played UF hard last season. Does the team feel like they have enough momentum to pull off an upset?
I think the fans definitely feel like they have the momentum, so I am sure the team does as well, especially after playing Florida so close in Starkville last year. They want to make this a special homecoming for Dan Mullen for sure.
We seem to have settled into a rhythm in the Georgia and Houston games with Relf as our main QB, running and short passing all the way down the field, with solid defense to give us great field position. You will probably not see Tyler Russell in the swamp unless we get way ahead (20+ points, which I don't see happening) or Relf goes down (which I pray doesn't happen).
5. Florida fans were always sort of annoyed by Dan Mullen, but clearly we wish we had him back. Does Mullen annoy Miss State fans at all, and if so, are you annoyed enough to send him back to Gainesville
I am assuming you are referring to an annoyance with play calling. There have been times, this year especially, when fans were just in awe of the stupidity displayed by whoever was calling plays, whether it was Mullen or Les Keoning.
A prime example is the Auburn game. We came out in the second half, down by 10, and immediately marched down the field and scored a touchdown on a 63-yard, 12 play drive that ate up almost 6 minutes of clock. We then come out and pull off an onside kick and recover it around midfield, giving us prime field position and the chance to go up on Auburn. What do we do, we come out and start tossing the ball around the field, go three and out, and kill any momentum we had built up.
Mullen wants us to be a passing team. It seems to be his intent. He always talks about us not having enough guys at WR and so forth. We probably can be a good passing team in 1 or 2 years, but right now we are a running team. When the coaches deviate from that style and try to go all-out spread, with our personnel, that is where we get burned.