After quickly climbing the polls and winning their first seven games of the season, Mississippi State has slipped in recent weeks against Alabama and Texas A&M, losing two straight.
After averaging 38 points per game during their seven game winning streak, the Bulldogs have managed just 10 points per game in their two losses. Offensive coordinator Les Koenning attributes their drop off in production to their execution early in games, and during key situations (especially in the red zone).
As he explains, being just a hair off in terms of execution is something you may be able to get away with against lesser teams, but not in the SEC.
"If you really look at it, it's just a matter of execution." Koenning said.
"When it comes down to big games, and playing in big games, you have to execute. Those things are very very small. The small things become big things, so you can't be just a hair off on your route or throwing the football, or your read, you have to be spot on. Those are the type of things that we're experiencing right now, we're getting in that situation where if we're just a little bit off it's not nearly as good as it would be against a Middle Tennessee, or someone like that."
"Execution gets magnified in those situations," Koenning noted about the need to execute against a top defense in a compressed section of the field, like the red zone. "You get down to a crucial situation and you've got to execute. Those are things that are hard to duplicate at practice because of the speed of the game."
This weekend their ability to execute will be tested once again, as they take on a 7-2 LSU squad. While LSU does rank in the top five nationally in pass efficiency defense, scoring defense, and total defense, they rank near the bottom nationally (112th) in opponents red zone conversions, allowing teams to come out of the red zone with points 90% of the time (including 15 touchdowns in 20 attempts).
Kickoff is scheduled for 7pm ET on ESPN.