If you're ever seen Rocky & Bullwinkle, they always had a "Coming Up Next" gag where the next segment would have two names, each with a play on words of the other. For example, it might say, "Be with us next time for 'Avalanche is Better than None,' or 'Snow's Your Old Man."
This post should be called, "The Second Replay" or "Ciron Song for Odysseus."
Anyway, early this morning, I watched the replay a second time. This time I focused on Ciron Black on offense, and on the linebacker crew on defense.
To not bury the lede even further, let me just say that Ciron Black has to play better than he did on Thursday. He certainly wasn't bad, and definitely didn't hurt us as much as Carnell Stewart did, but Ciron was a pre-season 2nd team All-SEC. He didn't get much push. He gave up two sacks. He gave up a lot of pressure on Flynn. He wasn't All-SEC calibre on Thursday. If we want to win championships, our best lineman has to get a push and has to stop the rush.
That's really all there is to say about that.
The linebackers were dominate, as was the whole defense of course. The message boards really like to get on Luke Sanders' case, but let me come to his defense. He registered 1.5 tackles against MSU, which certainly isn't a gaudy stat. But it's partially explained by the fact that he leaves the game in nickel situations, and we're in nickel about half the time. If Danny McCray (#44) is on the field, Luke Sanders (#35) is not.
Also, Luke disrupted more than one running play by taking on a lead blocker. People don't often understand the value of taking out a lead blocker. Some see a guy take out a lead blocker and think, "Well, he just got blocked." The lead blocker isn't just looking to block someone. He's looking to open up a hole for the ball carrier. If you take on a lead blocker at the right time, he can't make a hole. He'll just FILL a hole. Taking on a lead blocker and making him an obstacle for his running back usually results in a good play for the defense.
Ali Highsmith was all over the field. He got embarrassed on one play when Anthony Dixon stiff-armed him right in front of the camera, but he overall had a very good game. Where Sanders takes on blockers, Highsmith goes like a laser to the ball.
Darry Beckwith is just a stud.
Off of the immediate subject, if the game had an overarching narrative, it was the story of MSU's changing attitude towards itself. You could really see it from the footage of pre-game and the media talk of MSU being an improved team, through the end of the game when it became clear that MSU isn't really any better than they have been in the recent past.
Croom has been there 4 years. He has mostly his own recruits, and the team now has his personality. When Croom was recruiting back in 2004, THIS was the team he told people he wanted them to make. And it's not good. As the game progressed, you saw that realization dawn on them and on the announcers. You saw them come to understand that they simply are not competitive with the best teams in the conference.
In Croom's fourth year at the helm, MSU appears to be no better of a team than when he found it. I honestly thought Croom would have a lot more success in Starkville, but I was wrong.