Mississippi State linebacker Jamar Chaney watched helplessly in Starkville last season as Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense dominated the Bulldogs.
Chaney was recovering from a broken leg and didn’t make the trip to Atlanta for MSU’s 38-7 loss.
Things got so bad for the Bulldogs, who surrendered 438 yards rushing, that Chaney turned off the television at halftime.
“You hate to see that many yards put on a defense,” Chaney said.
Chaney will try to do something to help MSU (2-2) slow down Georgia Tech (3-1) at 6:30 p.m. Saturday (Comcast) when the teams meet in Starkville.
Chaney has revisited the painful memory of the Yellow Jackets’ dismantling of the Bulldogs in the film room this week.
He believes he has gained insight on how to defend the option better.
“You have to play assignment football and do your job,” Chaney said. “If the defensive end, outside linebacker or middle linebacker don’t do their job on anything they do, it could result in a touchdown.”
Chaney has bounced back from his injury to have a solid senior year so far.
Chaney is second on the team in tackles (24) and has one sack, two pass breakups, and three quarterback hurries.
MSU senior defensive tackle Kyle Love said Chaney should make a difference against Georgia Tech.
“(Chaney) is a good athlete,” Love said. “He can make plays from sideline to sideline. Mentally, a lot of guys did look down last year when he got hurt because he was our defense. Losing him was a big key.”
Love, an Atlanta native, was in the middle of the action against Georgia Tech last season. It hurt him greatly to give up so many yards to his hometown school.
“That was a tough offense to go against,” Love said. “Going into that game last year, I was focused because I could have went there. I told the (Georgia Tech) coaches I didn’t want to be in the state of Georgia so when I moved to Mississippi, that made me want to play harder. I feel the same way this week.”
Love knows the Bulldogs will need a much better effort Saturday, and he has been trying to learn all he can about the Yellow Jackets.
He agrees with Chaney that each player on defense has a responsibility.
“No one needs to do anyone else’s job,” Love said. “A lot of guys got out of whack last year, so our main focus this year is to get our guys to stay where they are supposed to be.
“If everybody does their job, it can be stopped. Miami shut it down pretty good, and we’re going to try and do the same thing.”
Miami held Georgia Tech to 95 yards rushing in a 33-17 victory Sept. 17 in Miami Gardens, Fla. The Yellow Jackets have rushed for 300 yards or more in their other games.
MSU coach Dan Mullen reviewed the Miami-Georgia Tech film to see if it could help him prepare for Saturday’s game.
“We want to make sure we put our players in a position to make plays,” Mullen said. “We have to make sure the plan really suits our players.”
Mullen said the scout team has helped the Bulldogs prepare for what they might see against Georgia Tech.
Running back Montrell Conner played the role of Jonathan Dwyer in practice, while quarterback Aaron Encalade and others did their best Josh Nesbitt impersonations.
Dwyer leads the Yellow Jackets in rushing with 326 yards on 49 carries. He has rushed for more than 2,000 yards in his career.
“He’s a big physical running back, but that’s not the only thing that makes him good,” Chaney said. “You see a big back and they usually aren’t that fast, but he’s really fast. You give him a little crease and he’s like a little scatback.”
The MSU defense has improved against the run in the past three weeks..
After allowing 390 yards rushing to Auburn on Sept. 12, the Bulldogs surrendered 33 yards to Vanderbilt and 30 to LSU.
“I think we’ve been a little bit more aggressive with our schemes and the guys have really bought into what we are trying to do and what we’ve tried to preach,” Mullen said. “We need to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
Even though the defense has played better, Mullen knows Georgia Tech will bring a new challenge.
“We’ve got to continue to stop the run if we want to be successful,” Mullen said. “We’ve got to wrap up, tackle, and really focus on fundamentals when you play a team that runs a disciplined and exact offense like Georgia Tech.”
Mullen said the MSU defense has practiced assignments with and without the football this week “to make sure someone tackles the dive backs, someone tackles the quarterback, and someone tackles the pitch back on every single play.”
Georgia Tech has averaged 262 yards rushing, 125.2 yards passing, and 387.2 yards of total offense this season, but coach Paul Johnson believes his team can be better.
“We’re not executing at the level we need to be,” Johnson said. “We struggled at times (in the last game), especially when we got down in the red zone a couple of times and we had two missed assignments.”
First time in Starkville
Not only will this be Georgia Tech’s first game in Starkville, but it also will be the first time the Yellow Jackets have played in the state of Mississippi.
Johnson really doesn’t know what to expect, but knows any atmosphere in the Southeastern Conference can be a test.
“I’m sure their fans will be into it and loud,” Johnson said. “We’re staying about 40-45 minutes outside of Starkville, so that’s a little different. You just have to make the best out of it. It will be a challenge for us going to play a Mississippi State team that has good athletes and looks good.”
Lee part of 1974 team
Members of the 1974 Bulldogs who won the Sun Bowl will be recognized at Saturday’s game.
MSU director of player personnel and former head coach Rockey Felker was the quarterback of that team, while Starkville High School football coach Bill Lee was a defensive back.
Lee, whose daughter and son-and-law will attend the game, is looking forward to the reunion.
“It’s going to be awesome,” Lee said. “It will be wonderful to see some of my old teammates, to remember, and to talk about all of the fun victories that season.”
Lee remembers most the 29-28 victory at Memphis State and the 26-24 win against North Carolina in the Sun Bowl.
Thames at receiver
Freshman Dennis Thames, of Louisville, has done enough good things in Mullen’s mind to remain at wide receiver.
Thames was recruited to be a defensive back.
“He can do a bunch of different things,” Mullen said. “Whether he remains at receiver in the future will be determined.”
Mullen hasn’t made any decision on redshirts, but Thames is a candidate.
Sunday night football
The weekend won’t be over for the Bulldogs after Saturday’s game.
On Sunday, Mullen will gets some of the younger players together who don’t play in games or get many repetitions in practice and have a scrimmage.
“It’s something the players really seem to enjoy and the coaches have a good time with it,” Mullen said.
Traffic, parking adjustments
Due to a record amount of rainfall last month, several grass parking areas on campus have been damaged and will be temporarily unavailable to allow them to dry and be repaired.
On Saturday, Bulldog Club Reserved Lot 27 will be relocated to Sorority Row immediately west and across Bully Boulevard from the current location.
Bulldog Club Reserved Lot 7 sustained damage in the southern most part of the lot, which required repairs to an underground power line. Half of Lot 7 will be unavailable Saturday. The usable portion of the lot will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis, with any remaining Lot 7 pass holders relocated to the gated lot south of Hand Laboratory. To access this lot, members should use Bully Boulevard and President’s Circle around Allen Hall.
Bulldog Club members with reserved passes in Lot 27 or 7 can proceed to any game day only pay lots and will be admitted by showing their reserved parking pass, which will be punched for Game 3.
There are additional reserved parking lots in grass areas that will be available barring additional rai