Defensive Dog Collars, Slam Dunks, are all part of a culture change

After Mississippi State University football's dominate performances over Kansas State University and Stephen F. Austin University, there was still one thing defensive coordinator Bob Shoop wanted to see improved.

"An area of growth would be turnovers. We haven’t really forced any turnovers," Shoop said. "I think it is hard sometimes when you get the pass rush that we do. The quarterback is throwing the ball into the dirt or out of bounds, but I would like for us break the ice this week and get some turnovers."

The defensive line is filled with talent, and their pass rush often times means position groups like the linebackers can be lost in the shadow cast by the big men at the line of scrimmage. Willie Gay Jr., a sophomore from Starkville, said the Kansas State game gave the linebackers a chance to get back on level terms in of the tackle stat column.

"Some games, they will dominate it, and we will only have like one or two tackles," Gay said. "Last game, I felt like we were both evened out, and Erroll (Thompson) made a lot of good plays. I feel like we both evened out, and did a lot of good things."

One of those good plays by Erroll Thompson, a sophomore from Florence, Alabama, was made as the Kansas State quarterback threw a low ball, and Thompson dove and caught it before it hit the ground.

"It was a great feeling you know," Thompson said. "That was the one thing I felt like I had to improve on was my pass coverage, getting back in my land marking and just seeing the quarterback and seeing the eye level."

Thompson forced MSU's second turnover of the season with his interception. As a result, the players brought out a dog collar, like the one used for the beloved mascot Bully, to celebrate.

"It is cool. Erroll (Thompson) got it Saturday, and we slammed it around his neck when celebrating," Gay said. "It is fun in the beginning because we all compete to get it. It motivates us, we all compete trying to get turnovers, try to play hard and do what we have to do."

It is not the first item to be used as a way to celebrate a turnover, but the dog collar relates to the university and the mascot. Thompson said he believes he knows who the mastermind behind the dog collar was.

"I believe it was coach Shoop," Thompson said. "Shoop Dawg, I feel like it was his idea to come up with the dog collar, we wanted to spice it up. Miami has the turnover chain, and we wanted to get the dog collar swagger."

The dog collar, although not an original idea, is part of the Moorhead transformation for MSU's program. In fact, Gay said everything has changed in the way the team prepares, to even how they play.

"Everyone is buying in, like everything has changed: from coaching to the way we handle things on and off the field," Gay said. "Every school in the country has their own turnover prop, and we thought of the dog collar, and it is something that has stuck with us since fall camp."

The dog collar is one of the many ways Moorhead is changing and shaping the culture into one where fun is a welcomed motivation to win. Thompson explains how Moorhead has brought change with his philosophy.

"Coach Moorhead is all about new ideas and making things fun," Thompson said. "If you see coach Moorhead, he is on the sideline making alley-oops to Kylin (Hill), so he is all about making it a great environment."

One can have the opportunity to see dunks scored on the sideline, or maybe even the turnover collar make an appearance, at 6 p.m. Saturday as MSU plays at home against the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. ESPN will televise the game on ESPN 2 due to cancelation of other games because of Hurricane Florence.

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