Mullen Teleconference: Bulldogs Ready for ‘Big-Time’ Game at Alabama

This week’s game: No. 13 MSU (7-0, 3-0 SEC) at No. 1 Alabama (7-0, 4-0), 7:30 p.m., ESPN


Good afternoon, people. Dan Mullen held his Sunday teleconference a little later than usual today, but I have a full transcript for you. It’s Alabama week, of course, the biggest week of the season to date. But before we see what Mullen had to say, let’s hit a few links from my coverage of the 45-3 win over Middle Tennessee State.

Game story


Sidebar on WR Chris Smith

Also, note that State got a two-spot bump in the AP poll this week. Now, here’s Mullen.

Opening comment:

Obviously a good win for us last night. I thought we played well on both sides of the ball, offense and defense. Even when we didn’t score touchdowns early on, which was a little disappointing, there was no panic. We managed to get ourselves right back on track, control the tempo of the game, never really let their offense get going – and they were a high-powered offense. Pretty pleased with how we played both sides of the ball last night. Obviously a huge challenge this week against the No. 1 team in the country. It’ll be a great game, it’ll be a big game, and I know our team and our program is excited to be involved in such a great game.

Amazing how good Alabama has been last few years:

No. You look at them, they’ve had over the last five years pretty much the top recruiting class every year. They’re loaded with talent at every single position, they’re deep at every single position. They’re a well-coached football team. You take all that talent, you coach it up really well, and the result is you’ve got the No. 1 defense in the country in just about every category there is. Throw that on top of their offense, where they’re one of the top offenses in the country. An average score I think of 41-8. We’ll have our hands full, because they have just talent across the board at every single position, and they’re well-coached.

How will kids approach this week with talk of Bama being so tough to crack:

They’ll come out, they’ll want to play. They’re excited. That’s why most of these guys decided to come to Mississippi State, to represent their state university and play in big-time games like this. I think our guys will be up for the challenge, and they’ll be excited and ready to put on a good performance and play with great effort on Saturday night.

How pleased to see team put the foot on the gas Saturday:

I was pleased with everybody. It was almost to the point of frustrating in the first half. We controlled the tempo of the game and held the time of possession a bunch, so you didn’t get a lot of drives. I thought we moved the ball very well, and then just made silly mistakes. But it was good to see our playmakers step up and make the plays they’ve done all year when we needed to. The thing I was most happy with is we gave the opportunity to a lot of young guys to play, and they made plays and showed us that they’re continually developing. If there was one thing I was most pleased with that game, it was how our young guys came on the field and performed when they got their opportunity.

Did you see this battle of unbeatens coming in the summer:

I can’t speak for the Alabama side of things, but for our guys, they wanted to be in this position and play in this game and expected coming into this season that this is where we would be. In the fourth year, a lot of these guys have been in this program for a while. They wanted the opportunity to go compete for an SEC championship, and to do so you had to get to this game where we are, and we’ve been able to do that so far.

What can you say about QB Tyler Russell’s play:

He’s done a great job. He does a great job managing the game for us, has made very good decisions. When we’ve needed him to step up and make plays, he’s made plays. But he’s also done a great job of getting us in the right plays and making sure we’re in the right protections, great leadership on the field. He’s playing as I expected my quarterbacks to play, which is that guy that goes and runs the show on the field for you.

Replacing Vick Ballard with LaDarius Perkins:

A couple of years ago we lost a kid named Anthony Dixon, and we said, what are we going to do next? Vick Ballard came in and did his job, and then we lost Vick, and what are we going to do next? And Perk came in and is doing his job. In the development of our program I see, and they’ve learned from the older guys that are in front of them, and when they get their opportunity, they step up and make plays. And Perk’s a guy that’s been in the program a while. He’s got to watch some really good players, watch how they perform, watched how they prepare, and I think he just picked up on that, and he’s a great role model for our younger players as well.

MSU hasn’t been adequately tested:

We’ve been tested a bunch. We’ve had some pretty close games during the season. But, you know, Alabama will be the best team we’ve played so far, but I guess anybody that plays them will say that about them since they’re the best team in the country right now. Our kids have been through some different tests. They’ve faced the adversity of success, they’ve faced some adversity on the field, of being put in some rough situations. We had to step up and make plays. Our guys have been through a lot, and we have some good leadership on this team. I feel they’ll be ready for the environment we’re going to head into on Saturday night.

I am the online content coordinator for I also co-host The Memo and Prep Rally podcasts and host the Newsbreak program. Previously at the Journal, I covered Mississippi State athletics (2008-13), high schools (2004-08), and was on the copy desk (2002-04).

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