Sunday Chat: Mullen Bemoans ‘Critical Errors’ in Alabama Loss

This week’s game: No. 16 Texas A&M (6-2, 3-2 SEC) at No. 17 MSU (7-1, 3-1), Saturday, 11 a.m., ESPN or ESPN2


Dan Mullen has watched the film and had some time to reflect on Saturday’s 38-7 loss to No. 1 Alabama. He took time this afternoon to go over things with us hacks on his Sunday teleconference, but first let’s hit some links.

Game story



Now, here’s the full transcript of Mullen’s Sunday chat. Enjoy.

Opening comment:

When you watched the film last night, obviously there’s a lot of disappointment, a lot of critical errors that we made in the game that you can’t make against a team that’s the No. 1 team in the country. You have to execute. We had talked about it all week, you have to execute at an extremely high level, and you have to do it every snap for 60 minutes. During the film we could see some significant breakdowns. They jump out, they get shown when you’re playing a great team like Alabama is right now. There were also some positives on the film. There were also some things that we did well during the course of the game, and we need to build on that, because this week is going to be our biggest game of the season coming up this weekend.

Challenge of Texas A&M’s offense, getting your team pumped up again:

The first part of that is, I’ve got a lot of respect for Kevin (Sumlin). He’s a very, very smart offensive mind. Their offensive coordinator, Kliff Kingsbury, who I’ve never met but I’ve watched from afar, they’re a very innovative offense, very good offensive coaches. You can see that. I haven’t watched film on them yet. I’ve got to watch some of their games on TV, and obviously they have a lot of talent and they have a good system and they’re a well-coached football team.

Now, the emotional part, that’s something, that’s why I say this is going to be the biggest game for us of the year, how our guys respond to it. We had a nine-game winning streak; how our guys responded on that nine-game winnings streak, they responded week in and week out. I thought they responded pretty well at winning games we should’ve won. Even we put ourselves in some situations during that, faced some adversity in success where you could all of a sudden slip and get yourself so-called trapped, I guess, in some of those games. We made plays to win games. Now we have a different adversity we face now of coming off a loss like this, and how we respond to it is going to be very important. That’s also part of playing in the Southeastern Conference, and that is, as a team and as a program you have to. There are dominant teams in this conference, but there’s a lot of them, so you know that during the course of your schedule you’re going to have to play a stretch run at some point, and week in and week out you’re going to have to play great teams back-to-back-to-back-to-back even at times during the course of the year. That’s what makes this league the best league to coach in and play in and the most challenging league as well.

Coverage breakdowns, Johnthan Banks blew a couple:

He was fine. The breakdown in coverage was not one person; a combination of people. The one deep pass we were supposed to have a safety over the top, he undercut the route to try to take it away underneath, thinking he has the safety over the top. He tried to go underneath and lost his man for a second in doing that, and the safety wasn’t over the top. Then the other one we had two guys misaligned, and the second to me is a coaching error. We didn’t have the guys in the right position to make the plays. Those are, again, little mistakes against really good teams, they expose those mistakes.

Early breakdowns due to mental focus or Alabama being so good:

A little bit of everything. When you watch that game, and the breakdowns to me, you don’t pinpoint the breakdown was on one person. Everybody has their list. Every position group, I can show you their breakdown. But you get into the course of the game and early on, they made some spectacular plays, they made some big-time catches along the sideline. Their quarterback makes some big-time throws. We missed some sack opportunities. Offensively we get down to the red zone and don’t score. We have a throw on the sideline with the guy wide open, and Tyler is a little bit high, and we step out of bounds on it. Those little, that margin for error is so small in these games, that they did a great job of executing, (and) we missed at times on that small margin of error. That showed especially early in the course of the game right there. You have to play a complete game. If you’re going to beat the No. 1 team in the country, you have to play a complete game, and we didn’t do that.

On development of Tyler Russell-Chris Smith connection:

It’s not just with Chris, but all those guys. Tyler has a great feel on his different receivers. Chris is obviously one of our bigger, physical guys, so he has that comfort with Chris that he’s going to go make catches if he gives him a chance, he’ll go up and get the ball. But I do think there is comfort with those guys and there’s a trust that Tyler trusts that those guys are going to go make the plays we need to make.

We played a lot of guys last night, throughout the entire course of the game. We have some real positives to show to just about everybody on the team of them doing some real positive things. Then we can really show them the negative. To be a championship team, you have to eliminate every negative. You have to have complete focus for four quarters. That’s what it gets to in those big games.

Did you learn more about Russell in a loss compared to the first seven wins?

I know what we have in Tyler. We have a guy that I trust as the leader of our team. He’s a guy that shows great toughness, will show resiliency throughout the game. He has the ability to make plays against almost every opponent we play. In his maturity and his development, I don’t worry about him not responding well to this. I think he’ll respond great to this and come out with some great leadership and demeanor in how he leads the team during this week.

Any thought of putting Dak Prescott in at quarterback on the goal line?

No. No. We didn’t score, so obviously the easiest thing to say is, boy, we should have tried a different play on that. We had the plan in and we kind of followed the plan we wanted to take in. Again, their kids made the play and we didn’t at the key time. In those games, plays are not going to be easy to make. You have to still make them. A lot of times during the game their kids made some great plays. When it didn’t look like it was going to be a good situation, they still made the play. That’s some learning for our guys, the high level of play you have to have at the top.

Was Russell’s 97-yard drive, before the interception, one of the most impressive drives of his career?

I thought we had several good drives in the game, where at times we executed. When you’re playing against the No. 1 defense the key is you have to have those drives constantly throughout the game. Our first two drives of the game, I thought we executed fairly well. We drove to the red zone and came away with no points. The second drive, we got a couple of first downs and punted. That 97-yard drive, I thought we executed very well. There was no panic, even coming out of our own end zone.

But then there were some other times during the game where we have the silly mistakes. We’re coming out of our own end zone and we convert a third down and we have a holding penalty on the call. It’s one that didn’t really affect the outcome of the play but was still a mental lapse. Some of those things that you can’t do during the course of the game, you have to be on every drive during the course of a big game. That was excellent. Tyler led us on several good drives during the course of the game, but we just didn’t finish them off.

After playing Alabama’s big offensive and defensive lines, does it further solidify the thought that you have to have elite talent on the front to compete for a title in the SEC?

I think you better have a lot of talent if you’re going to compete for championships right now with Alabama. They’re the No. 1 team in the country and I guess, unfortunately, winning the SEC West probably means you’re going to win the national championship. Over the last several years, that’s what it has shown. We’re still growing toward that. We’ll see. There’s a lot of football to be played this season. As we continue to develop and continue to grow our program in that direction, we’ll learn from this game. We have a lot of young guys playing on the field and they have to learn from this game. If they don’t learn from this game and this situation, then we’re not going to take the next step. So hopefully they learn how we need to perform when you’re playing in a championship-style game.

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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