Tuesday Bulldog Football Notebook

Corey Broomfield

It sounds odd coming from a player who is on a program-record pace for picks. But Corey Broomfield insists that if he ends up snagging an interception it means somebody made a mistake. Not just the passer either; Broomfield most often indicts…himself?

"Really, if I can cover my man the d-line is supposed to get the sack," Broomfield explains. "We're really not supposed to ever get any interceptions if we're covering perfectly! If we get an interception it probably means we're not holding up our part of the deal."

An odd comment indeed considering that the sophomore cornerback has scored eight interceptions in just 18 varsity games, and is half-way to the Mississippi State career record (16, Walt Harris 1992-95). Why, he tied the MSU season standard by snaring six picks as a 2009 freshman. Moreover he has already tied the career pick-six mark of three, held for the moment by Derek Pegues (2005-08).

For the MSU moment because given Broomfield's knack for first coming up with an opposing pass, and then converting it into defensive points, that mark seems sure to fall. Soon. Even if, as the man admits, interceptions are often the result of his own coverage errors. "But I can deal with that!" he grins.

If this talk of mistakes making MSU points is confusing, it merely reflects the overall Dog defensive approach to passing. It also points, so to speak, to the area of most fan concern through the first half of the season. Because the Bulldogs have been vulnerable each week to big passing plays, including eight such touchdowns and quite a few non-scoring, long gainers. State is allowing 57% completions as well.

In no way do the Dogs themselves downplay such things. "We're getting better, but we're still not at our peak, where we need to be," DT Josh Boyd said. "We still have a lot of things we need to improve on."

Yet progress is being made on this front. Or is it in this backfield? Both, according to Broomfield, because this is an entirely mutual matter. "Yeah, it works together. When I'm covering my man the linemen can get the sacks. And when they're getting good pass rush I can get interceptions." Though, the cornerback adds, "If it's caught, it's the secondary's fault no matter who is supposed to be there!"

The good news is these secondary Dogs are primarily getting closer to the right spots at right times. Not entirely or always, and Houston admittedly aided the MSU defense with some unforced drops of open, catchable throws. Luck plays a part, too, but it is not something State's secondary wants to count on. It certainly was not luck, but smarts and skill and a good hard front-line rush, that set up Broomfield to step in front of a Cougar pass and take it 27 yards for what might have been the back-breaking score just before halftime.

A big play for sure. And a quarter later Broomfield got to another pass, this time in heavy traffic and returned ‘only' 13 yards this time. Yet still this mature-beyond-class-years corner isn't satisfied. "If y'all were in the team meetings you'd see how many opportunities we had throughout the year we didn't capitalize on. So last week we got a little glimpse of what could happen, but there were more turnovers on the field we didn't capitalize on."

Indeed the Dogs are still minus-1 in overall turnovers this year with just five interceptions, having gone three whole games without any picks prior to Houston and Broomfield's pair. So look for renewed emphasis on such things as stripping balls, forcing and recovering fumbles. Oh, and scoring sacks before that pass ever gets airborne in the first place.

"We know every play is not going to perfect but I know everybody is going to do their job," Broomfield said. "And if they don't, I know they'll do it the next play!"

HAPPY HOMECOMING? Broomfield is one of six Bulldogs headed to their home state this weekend. It's maybe more meaningful for the Palm Bay native though. Last year prior to the MSU-Florida game at Scott Field he described growing up as a Gator fan and his disappointment in not getting to play in Gainesville. He also figured not many on the UF sideline knew his name in 2009.

Now? "Uh, I think they do. I hope they don't! But I'm sure they're going to watch the Houston game and know who #25 is."

If they don't there will be a sizable private cheering section at Griffin Stadium making the name heard. Broomfield's toughest challenge this week will be satisfying the demand for player tickets from, let's see, how many from his family want to be at the game?

"Everybody!" he laughed. "Intermediate to extended, everybody!"

FAMILIAR FACE, NEW PLACE: One Bulldog who is assured of recognition by the Gator offense is CB Johnthan Banks. After all, one doesn't pick a pair of passes off a legend of the game, return them for touchdowns, and not be remembered, right?

"Uhhh, I'm pretty sure they do!" Banks said. Certainly Mississippi State folk will never forget Banks' first October evening against Florida. As the second quarter wound down the Gators were trying to expand a 13-3 lead on a Tim Tebow throw towards the left corner of State's end zone. Banks, a then-frosh making only his third State start, came down with the throw and took off the other way. All the other way, for a 100-yard touchdown return.

Much later, with Florida seemingly safely ahead 29-13, Tebow unloaded under pressure only to have the throw go short and right into Banks' hands at the 20-yard line. He set MSU history with a second pick-six in the same game, and in the process tied the entire season mark for two interception return scores. The same record Broomfield would tie at the end of the year.

For all the glamour those two huge plays meant in MSU minds, a year later Banks doesn't recall the game so fondly. "I really didn't do anything spectacular in that game but just run. I didn't really cover anybody real good." Well, fans can debate the ‘unspectacular' opinion but the man himself has moved on to 2010, a sophomore season…and a new position. He will line up at cornerback in this rematch so in this aspect Florida has nothing to remember.

"I'm not really worried about it," said Banks."I know I'm going to know what I'm doing, and I'm going to have confidence. Coach (Melvin) Smith says, I'm going to have confidence and be disciplined and go out and guard my man."

Besides, he adds, "This year I'm a better player, I know my stuff, and I'm just going to go out there and play."

While the offensive roster has taken one season-ending hit (WR Leon Berry) and has week-long worries about another (C J.C. Brignone), the defensive team is back to strength. DT Fletcher Cox came back from an ankle sprained against Georgia game to start at Houston. He only got credited an assist tackle, but just getting back in action was a win for Cox.

"It's good, it feels good moving around. Coach put me in to get my feet wet, get me back on the field. It probably cut down my snaps a little bit." Jeff Howie got most of the snaps when Cox was rotated out.

Related to the above interceptions topic, the defensive front has controlled their collective frustrations over the lack of true sacks this season. State has 10.0 official baggings through six games, not what was expected of a veteran unit with more depth and, purportedly, a more aggressive gameplan. Cox's starting partner Boyd doesn't deny the unit knows about this lack of sacks.

"Everybody wants a sack!" he agreed. "But pressure and incomplete passes and rushed throws, it's just as good, you're giving opportunities for the secondary to make plays on the ball and make picks. It's 50-50, they help us and we help them."

Boyd started and Cox rotated in during last year's Florida game. So Cox knows what to expect from the Gator offense. "Basically it just being physical, the whole front, the whole team. You have to be physical to execute." Meanwhile the line is helping itself by tearing down game tape from the first half of the season and applying lessons for the next six games. "Just mostly our technique," Boyd said. "Sometimes it's real good and sometimes its real poor. So we want to improve more and more on our technique. As long as we keep doing what we do yeah, we're going to force turnovers. We take pride in it, so it's going to be there."

Something else is just about there for Bulldog taking during the schedule second half. State is already two-thirds of the way to bowl eligibility, the acknowledged goal for this team, this season. It's a great position to be in, all agree…but also brings the potential for distraction, or even relaxation with six games left to score the needed two other Ws.

"Well, we're just trying to do what we need to do to win," said Boyd. "It feels real good right now but we can't stop, we have to keep pushing on."

PRACTICE SCHEDULE: With school out this week for the fall break, Tuesday's practice can begin earlier and is scheduled to conclude around 5:00. An update report from Mullen will be filed with a check on Brignone's status.

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