Mississippi State football vs Arizona Wildcats: Takeaways from the Defense
It was largely boom or bust for Mississippi State’s defense against Arizona. They made the big plays in the key moments that won the game. But they also showed some deficiencies that need to be sorted out.
My biggest concern for this defense coming into the year was pass defense, both in terms of pressuring QBs and coverage. State lost its best players at those spots from last season and have largely unproven guys now filling those roles. And what we saw on Saturday suggests those concerns were valid.
We’ve yet to see State be able to consistently generate pressure off the edge from their pass rush positions. State’s secondary wasn’t shredded regularly, though you did see a few busts, but Arizona was able to work down the field with lots of easy completions underneath. Much of that goes back to the coverages MSU was in, but the fact they stayed in those looks suggests there were concerns about that group holding up downfield.
Therein lies a bit of a conundrum for State. Do you start blitzing more to ramp up the pass-rush and risk allowing more big plays through the air? Or do you stay conservative but give QBs plenty of time to operate? It’s a tough question.
MSU also has to find a better way to contain mobile QBs. They rarely had a spy on de Laura, and that allowed for some big gains when he took off. It would help if your edge rushers could do a better job of collapsing the pocket and prevent them from escaping.
With all that being said, it certainly wasn’t a horrendous day for the defense. Overall it was pretty good. You saw guys like Shawn Preston and Hunter Washington step up, which would be big for this team going forward. There’s a lot about Arizona that carries over against LSU in terms of matchup and the offense’s strengths. Hopefully this game served as a tune-up.