By: Bob Carskadon, HailStateBEAT
Jacksonville, Fla. - As the Gator Bowl closes in, Mississippi State's defense is closing in on a plan to stop Northwestern's diverse run-first spread.
NU players reportedly watched film of MSU's loss to Texas A&M and Heisman-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel. With a mobile quarterback of their own, the Wildcats are hoping to find some openings in the Bulldogs' defense.
There were plenty of those against the Aggies, but defensive coordinator Chris Wilson has spent the majority of his time in bowl prep trying to fix those holes.
"We've simplified some things," he said.
In particular, Wilson said they've changed up how they defend a dynamic quarterback.
Against A&M, MSU used multiple spies, having different people on different plays following the fleet-footed Manziel.
For NU, Wilson says they've dropped it to one or two spies, making things easier and more clear on the defense.
In the back end of the defense, MSU is of course down a coach, but Wilson said it isn't all bad and may even help with some of the communication issues the secondary has dealt with.
"It's better having two sets of eyes, but sometimes it's good to have just one voice out there," Wilson said.
Senior cornerback Corey Broomfield said they've learned from mistakes both against TAMU and other spread offenses, hoping they've corrected their errors.
Part of their preparation for NU has involved putting speedy and tiny freshman receiver Brandon Holloway in the backfield as the scout team running back.
"He's given us a good look," Broomfield said. "It's like what Jameon Lewis did for Denard Robinson two years ago. That worked pretty well last time. Hopefully we get the same result."
Massive defensive tackle Josh Boyd joked about how tough it is to catch the 5'8″, 170-pound Holloway, which he thinks will help him and his fellow defenders wrap up NU's stud running back on Tuesday.
After practice Friday afternoon, the players got a couple-hour break before heading into town for a players party with bowling, big screens, and most importantly, food.