For Saturday’s GameDay section, I’ve written about the defensive line and how MSU hasn’t posted big sack or tackle-for-loss numbers. Today I want to look at sacks: MSU has four in three games.
So what does that mean? Sacks are an important stat, for sure, because a sack is a negative-yardage play, something coaches always want to see their defenses get. One sack can knock the wheels off the most promising offensive possession. In last week’s 30-24 squeaker over Troy, MSU had no sacks. Thanks goodness for the four turnovers then.
Is it too early for MSU to get worried about the sack total? Maybe. After all, two of its games have been against non-SEC opponents whose quarterbacks made a concerted effort not to hold onto the ball for too long. As defensive coordinator Chris Wilson told me, “[T]hey’re not letting you get sacks. The ball’s out of their hands, and even when you’re playing man, they know where their hot reads are in man, and now you’re challenging throws.”
MSU’s sack total is tied for last in the SEC, but here’s some context for you: The other two teams with just four sacks are Tennessee and LSU. Is anybody really questioning the ability of LSU’s front seven to disrupt offenses? The Tigers haven’t played anyone of note (unless you count Washington, which was a 41-3 win), and so, much as with MSU, it’s hard to analyze the numbers properly.
But if State keeps up the current pace, it will have only 16 sacks by the end of the regular season. That number would’ve ranked 11th in the SEC last season; and speaking of last season, MSU had 27 sacks, tied for seventh.
Improving the sack total depends a good bit on how well juco transfer Denico Autry plays. He has one sack so far and is the only starting defensive lineman to take down a quarterback. But he’s gotten some pressure on QBs, as have the other D-linemen. And sometimes simply causing a QB to be uncomfortable or to rush the play, while it might not show up on the stat sheet, can be as good as a sack.