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October 31, 2012
No. 15 Mississippi State's defense has already faced some potent offenses this season.
But this week the Bulldogs will be facing their toughest task to date. Texas A&M's offense leads the Southeastern Conference averaging 542.9 yards and 45.5 points per game.
The Aggies, led by redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel, have taken the conference by storm offensively in their first year. Texas A&M is passing for 385.5 yards and rushing for 237.6 yards an outing.
"You're going to have to play very sound and tackle in the open field," said MSU head coach Dan Mullen. "They have a lot of talent, not just at the quarterback position but very talented running backs and big, fast receivers who create a lot of mismatch problems. They are going to try to spread you out across the field and create those matchups for their talent. You've got to do a good job of containing it and when you get them in the open field you have to make tackles."
Manziel is one of the top offensive players to pass through the SEC in some time. He currently leads the league in total offense at 376.1 yards a game. Manziel tops the conference with 99.1 yards rushing and is third in passing at 277 yards.
Manziel has already broken Archie Manning's SEC single game total offense record twice in only eight career games.
"If you give him all day to throw back there he will beat you with his arm," Mullen said. "If you give him open spaces he can take off and beat you with his legs. You have to do everything to contain him."
As staggering as some of the Aggies' stats are offensively, their defense is often overshadowed. Texas A&M is 10th in the league in total defense (385.5) but are sixth against the run (136.4) and seventh in scoring allowed (22).
"I do think their defense is underrated," Mullen said. "Their offense gets all the attention but with how their defense has played, especially in conference games, they have a lot of speed and size. That's what this league is known for is having that size and speed on that side of the ball. They fit right in that mold of an extremely athletic and fast defense. They are probably the most underrated defense in the league."
The Aggies feature junior Demontre Moore on its defensive front. Moore leads all defensive linemen in the conference with 65 tackles including 18 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks.
"He's got size to be physical against the run game and with his speed he can disrupt your throw game," Mullen said. "When you look at teams who play great defense in this league, when you don't have to blitz and can rush your d-linemen and still get to the quarterback very quickly that can cause you a lot of challenges."
State will have their hands full getting back on the winning track this week against the 16th ranked Aggies. The Bulldogs are coming off their first loss in nearly a year last week to top-ranked Alabama.
But Mullen has been encouraged by what he has seen from his squad so far in practice this week.
"It's been a while since we've lost here and I think once they got through that initial shock and got back to what we are as a team which is a team who works hard and plays with relentless effort, I think we've had one of our better weeks of practice this season," Mullen said. "Our leaders have really stepped up and done a good job this week."