The Mustangs’ defense ranks second in the country. All those blowouts in the regular season sometimes leave people to forget that the only reason this offense scores so much is because the other team doesn’t have the ball for very long.
“I’ve been saying this for weeks now: if you made it to the semifinals in the playoffs, you’ve got a great defense,” said Head Coach Steve Ryan.
They say defense wins championships, and for the most part, they’re right. In the last four years, no national champion has been outside the top six in scoring defense in the country, and this year will be no different. But for Morningside, it’s the experience of nine returning starters, primarily seniors, that may give them the edge.
“So often when you have seniors, it can be their best year ever, or it can be a step back,” Ryan said. “And that was a concern for me after they had just won a national championship in 2018, but I can’t say how proud I am of them, and of the coaching staff. They play as a unit, they play together, and they take the glory together, and that speaks to who they are.”
In addition to being the number two defense in the country, they also rank as the nation’s second-best sack unit, racking up 45 quarterback takedowns this season. That kind of aggressiveness not only makes the front of the defense better but also helps out the secondary.
“Everyone does their job. Everyone does what they’re supposed to do. No one tries to extra, or do somebody else’s job. But you talk about the sacks, that just makes it really easy on the back end,” said senior DB Deion Clayborne. “If they can get to the quarterback, they can create pressure, we don’t have to cover very long. It just helps us, makes our job a lot easier.”
This Saturday’s biggest challenge isn’t getting to the quarterback, it’s slowing down nation’s second-leading rusher, Charles Salary, who will be looking to make a statement as the nation’s best back.
“It’s a great challenge. You know, we never back down from any challenge. He’s a great running back, they have a great offensive line,” Clayborn said. “We’re going to have to execute well, and take care of our gameplan and do what we do well to win this game. But we’re never going to back down from a great challenge.”
It was the mustangs defense that won them their semifinal against Grand View when freshman DB Jamal Jones punched the ball out of the hands of a receiver in the final minute to stop what could have been a game-winning drive. We’ll see if they can come up big one more time this postseason.