2011 Gator Bowl page in the sidebar.
Anyone who's read this blog in the last two weeks knows that I've been harping about Mississippi State's screen pass defense. I finally had a chance to sit down and watch the MSU/Arkansas game over the weekend--I wanted to watch it primarily to see how Chris Relf finished the game 20/30 for 224 yards (the short story: tons of protection in the pocket, about which more probably tomorrow)--and saw yet another instance of Mississippi State's flimsy defensive numbers.
This is the last time I'll dedicate significant space to this, but at this point, I feel confident saying that these are not isolated incidents, rather a systemic issue with their defense. I've now watched three games of Mississippi State (two at the beginning of the season and this one at the end) that all show this same flaw. This is not something that they've cared to fix after acknowledging a problem. To the play (apologies for image quality, I wasn't able to find a high-def torrent):
What does it mean?
Like I mentioned above, this is not an isolated incident: Mississippi State's screen defense is structurally unsound, and that's because they play a heavy-blitzing style. Unless they switch up their defensive schemes significantly against Michigan, I anticipate RichRod checking to this play frequently at the line of scrimmage when he sees a favorable alignment. MSU will attempt to counter this by crashing their DBs into the backfield to intercept/swat balls, but that can be easily expoited with vertical routes by the outside receivers.
Michigan will go to these bubble screens often against Mississippi State, or at least until it slows down their blitzing schemes and opens running lanes for Denard and company. Roy Roundtree's ability to hold onto the ball will be crucial here, and I also expect to see Vincent Smith headed out to the flat to catch screen passes from time to time.
This should conclude my obsession with the Bulldogs' screen defense. Hopefully.