October 9, 2008

Croom sees similarities in Vandy

Forgive Sylvester Croom if he can't help draw similarities between the 2008 Vanderbilt Commodores and his 2007 Mississippi State squad.

The Commodores are relying on a stingy defense, forcing turnovers and keeping their mistakes to a minimum reminiscent of how Croom's team did a season ago.

"As far as how they are playing, their similarities are the same," Croom said. "They are not leading in what I call the glamour categories but they are leading in the ones that reflect on winning ballgames. They are high in turnover ratio which means they come out ahead as far as getting turnovers. They are very low in penalties. They defend the red zone extremely well and they score when they get in the red zone. But the biggest thing that says a lot about their character is that they have come from behind in all their games to win."

But there is drastic difference on paper between the two schools this season. Vanderbilt is off to a perfect 5-0 start while the Bulldogs limp into Saturday's contest at 1-4 and desperately needing a win to turn the season around.

MSU has turned the ball over nine times this season and are currently the eighth most penalized team in the Southeastern Conference. The Bulldogs have also lost key components like Tobias Smith, Jamar Chaney and Robert Elliott for the season due to injuries.

"We've turned the ball over too much and had way too many penalties," Croom said. "We've had too many missed assignments and haven't paid attention to the details as we should. There are some other factors like far more injuries than we had last year. We only lost one guy the entire year last year and that was late in the season when we had sufficient depth where it wasn't a factor. The biggest thing is that we haven't done up to this point the things, like Vanderbilt and like we did last year, to win games. It starts with discipline and it's a lack of discipline."

The Commodores are the least penalized team in the league only averaging 30.4 yards per game marked off against them and lead the nation in turnover margin at +9.

With a bye week to work with new starting quarterback Tyson Lee, State will attempt to better an offense that ranks near the bottom in every statistical category. The Bulldogs are 114th in the country in scoring offense averaging only 16.2 points per game and are 103rd nationally in total offense posting only 311.4 yards per game.

But do not expect to see any wholesale changes in the offensive scheme just because of the open date.

"We haven't changed the offense," Croom said. "We just wanted to execute what we are doing a lot better."

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