Defense plans to cage the War Eagles

Mississippi State University’s football team has struggled to produce on offense. However, defensive coordinator Bob Shoop said his defense has risen to the challenge.

"I think our guys approach has been really solid," Shoop said. "I think Tuesday we had a really good practice, a really physical practice today. We really want to establish a level of toughness, especially against a team like Auburn."

Auburn University runs a lot of unique plays and formations, as their coach Gus Malzahn is creative with getting his players in space. Shoop said this upcoming game will be a good challenge.

"I’m excited, I think it’s going to be a great challenge for us," Shoop said. "We don’t play against Auburn’s defense, we understand that, but Auburn has a really good defense. The margin of error will be very thin."

The fact that the margin of error is so thin, combined with what Malzahn can do with his offense, means Shoop will have a tough challenge for the third week in a row of playing teams with unorthodox formations.

"That’s college football in 2018," Shoop said. "We come in here and talk about sports sometimes. I think you can make the case that being a defensive coordinator in college football is the hardest job in all of sports."

Shoop said it is difficult to prepare for offenses like Auburn’s with just practicing 20 hours each week. He said this is why his team sticks to fundamentals of the game.

"You have to rely on fundamentals and rules," Shoop said. "Again, in the game  the other day (against Florida), the touchdown that they scored, they only scored one, they made one more play than we did anyway, and it was on a trick play."

One of the things the defense needs to improve on, despite giving up very few points, is helping the team win the field position battle and getting turnovers.

"What we don’t do is we don’t get a lot of three and outs," Shoop said. "We need to get more three and outs. We only have five turnovers, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a team not have a fumble recovery in the first five games—that has been a point of emphasis this week."

Shoop said he gave his defense another challenge this week against Auburn.

"The challenge I’ve also given them is to score on defense," Shoop said. "We got to score on defense, we got to find a way to find points for the team."

One of the toughest challenges, besides the struggle to force turnovers, is the level of play and style of play in the SEC. Shoop said it takes some time to get adjusted to.

"It is different, I truly believe it is different," Shoop said. "The other teams on our schedule, they are literally coming in here trying to kill us, kill us. I say kill us, obviously I’m saying it facetiously, but these teams try to knock your head off. That is how they play in this conference. To me, we got to step up and play to that same intensity."

Saturday's game is the final game before the bye week, which is why Shoop believes his team will hold nothing back.

"Our kind of battle cry this week, obviously we understand this is the week before the bye week," Shoop said. "There is nothing really to hold back on, it’s giving everything you have got. I think our guys enjoy being out there, I told our guys, 'When is good not good enough? When better is required.' We need to do a little bit better right now."

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