Keys for Arkansas To Beat Mike Leach’s Mississippi State

-Tommy Foltz

Before we get to Mississippi State, let’s quickly review the Georgia game that encompasses Pittman’s entire body of work as a head coach in the SEC so far.

A lot of what we saw last Saturday was encouraging.  That which was not, though, is more on the coaches than the players.

Generally speaking, trick plays are born out of desperation, which is what makes some of the play calling for the Hogs so questionable.  Teams that are up 7-0 in the 2nd quarter do not exactly fit the definition of desperate.  But, that’s when we tried that double reverse, which turned into a safety.


What’s the definition of insanity?  Yes, that’s right, let’s all say it together now — “continuing to do the same thing while expecting a different result.”  

Trying to continue to penetrate the interior line of Georgia is like trying get a word in edgewise in a Trump/Biden debate.  Just not gonna happen, and it would be insane to jump into the middle of it.


As a result of beating LSU in its season opener, MSU vaulted to No. 16 and knocked LSU to No. 20 despite a pre-season top 10 ranking.  

One of the first things to know about MSU is that they overcame adversity early by coming back from a pick 6 to conduct three 70+ yard drives on the way to winning the game.  It says something about a team that can do that.

In my season preview, I had Arkansas beating MSU and losing to LSU.  Go figure.  But, I’m sticking by it.  I can still be right, and hey, I picked the under last week.

The reason you don’t want to bet the under is because Mike Leach is going to air out the ball.  Period.  He’s gonna put up some stats and some points.  MSU completed more passes (36) than LSU made attempts (27).  Leach’s Bulldogs threw for 623 yards, 5 TDs and 2 INTs.

The good news is that the Hogs finally have some talent in the secondary.  Having said that, it’s going to take everything those guys have in their arsenal to defend against the air attack they’ll see on Saturday.  It’ll be very interesting to see how Odom tricks up his defense to stop the big play and break up the sustained drives of MSU.  


“Only three things can happen when you throw the football and two of them are bad.”

 Former Hogs coach Lou Holtz (circa. 1977)

Clearly, Mike Leach has had a lot of success going against the dated philosophy above.   

Even when his famed Air Raid didn’t work last week against LSU, it was usually because of failure of execution. MSU had at least 24 plays that were unsuccessful because the QB misfired, a receiver dropped it, the QB may have tried to thread the needle one too many times, etc.  Who knows, but there are a lot of moving parts to Leach’s risk/reward offense. 

The bottom line here is that there IS risk in their offense and there IS reward.  But, they WILL make mistakes. 


The deal about the Air Raid offense is that when it works, everyone’s on their game and focused, it works.  But, if you live by the sword, you die by the sword.  That’s their identity, as Washington got to find out year after year drubbing Mike Leach at his old school, Washington State.

For seven straight years, the Huskies won.

Huskies’ defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake said this of Leach’s style:

“It makes it really easy to gameplan when an offense does the same thing every year… hopefully [Leach] remains here for a long time. That would be awesome.”

The Hogs have simply got to show up and take their identity from Leach’s offense, as the Huskies did, by knocking them out of their game.    


Anyone can throw out the standard “coach speak” version of what it’s going to take to win a game.  (No turnovers, limit penalties, etc., etc.)

The overall objective is to win the game.  A major part of the strategy has got to be to jam the receivers at the line.

Air Raid offenses depend on timing, which creates chemistry and vice versa.  Jamming receivers on the line throws off their timing and stops offensive flow and momentum from building.  Incompletions and interceptions will follow.  The offense sitting on the sidelines follows that.

HERE’S THE DEAL (Post Script):

Despite where we are as a program, we’ve been in this position for too long to declare anything to be a victory (moral, or otherwise).  No, the only victory that counts is the one that you can write down in black and white.   


Because, whether you win or lose DOES MATTER.  It’s a zero sum game in college football.  You’re either in, or you’re out.  Right now, we’re out.  It’s time that changes on Saturday.


For a full preview of Arkansas-Mississippi State, see this:

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