A big victory? Then, a brief celebration and a quick return to business? Attention on the next test? Yeah. It’s a diet Bulldogs could get used to.
In fact what is it Mike leach is demanding right now as the Bulldogs are working their second game week. As formidable as beating LSU on the road, the state of Mississippi has to be just as intense for the first enemy on the ground. Maybe more?
“You’re just trying to reinforce the importance of being focused,” Leach said today. “And we tried to reinforce that. However, we haven’t changed the whole process or routine.
To be sure 2020 as a whole hasn’t had much of a routine on this. Thus, these Bulldogs (1-0) and their new trainer waited until October for their first Scott Field show. It starts at 6:30 am with Arkansas (0-1), and on the alternative channel of the SEC network.
It’s quite a change in lineup from opening day when the Dogs put on a real show for CBS’s domestic audience. They beat the reigning national champions 44-34 and in record style. KJ Costello made his Bulldog debut literally one for the books with an SEC record 623 passing yards, producing five touchdowns and winning player of the week honors in conference and nationwide.
Taking down the Tigers made for a dramatic departure from the state. With, Leach also knows, the risks of a disappointment every other week. As rewarding as it is for Bulldog players to see the team ranked (# 16 AP, # 14 Coaches), their boss is all about business.
“I thought we played well. I thought we were playing hard, we were incredibly inconsistent. And we can’t wait to play Arkansas. “
There’s a bit of a twist to this game in that Leach was contacted when the Arkansas position was opened previously. Leach didn’t care to discuss what those discussions were or were not.
“I have the utmost respect for the University of Arkansas. All the conversations that we have been able to have are between us. Meanwhile, Razorbacks attempt yet another rebuild under former Georgia lineman Sam pittman, and as State have a senior transfer quarterback in Feleipe franks. He shares the backfield with a proven back Rakeem boyd and other qualified personnel recruited by former staffs.
So Leach isn’t assuming easy showdowns this week. “I think they’re good. I think they have explosive guys. They’re tough online, some of those guys that I remember recruiting.
Leach hasn’t wooed the state for a long time. But his first signing award, via the transfer portal, is making waves from coast to coast. Costello had his fair share of mistakes in the SEC’s first action, which under most MSU circumstances would have been fatal in breach.
Instead, this quarterback hasn’t just made up for those mistakes, including a pick of six. Costello destroyed a proud defense and erased a 1993 SEC passing record. In the process, he turned a bunch of so far erratic CV receivers into safe stars with heaps of yards and well-shared scores.
Costello also eased the pressure on the top five who had major blackouts, likely reflecting the lack of work between spring and summer. No wonder today that Leach called it a “good start” to the Stanford transfer. He was asked to compare him to the debuts of his other quarterbacks in Kentucky, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Washington state.
“It’s probably as good a start as any of them,” Leach said.
“But that’s the number of times you can do it in a row. I think the ultimate thing you want from our quarterback is to uplift the players around him, and I think KJ does a really good job in that regard. Many satisfied runners and receivers will agree.
Until opening day, the league and national media questioned whether the air raids approach would work in the SEC. After just one game, the offense receives rave reviews from many of those same skeptics. Leach cannot however be concerned with outside opinions or how they change with the scores each week.
“I don’t think much about it. I guess it surprises me sometimes. But I think we have good coaches, good players and everyone who works together. It’s all pretty solid, you know.
A revealing offense does not only put the state in a winning position. This improves the odds of a dog defense that has more freedom to play things their own way. Coordinator Zach Arnett’s new plan kept LSU’s yards and points secure. But they made their physical presence felt all over the field and especially on the back field with the SEC’s seven best sacks.
“I don’t know if there is a key,” Leach said. “I thought we played hard. We tried to keep them out of balance with the pressure coming from different directions. I’m glad some of them got home because LSU is really explosive.
Still, it was the Bulldogs who blew up a championship program and burst onto the national stage on a big Saturday. The first of ten on a revised 2020 calendar that finally has the state of Mississippi at home.