This week’s game: Arkansas (4-6, 2-4 SEC) at MSU (7-3, 3-3), Saturday, 11:21 a.m., SEC Network
Dan Mullen held his regular Sunday teleconference today. He reviewed Saturday’s 37-13 loss to LSU, and he looked ahead to Arkansas, which is the final home game of the year for MSU. Before we get to Mullen, some links and notes.
• The Bulldogs fell out of the AP and coaches polls this week. The BCS standings will be released later today.
• Here is my MSU-LSU game story.
• Here is my MSU-LSU notebook.
• Here is my MSU-LSU sidebar.
Now, to the transcript of Mullen’s Sunday chat.
There’s no surprises, really, in football. You play hard, and I think our kids played hard and put us in position to do things to win the game but you make critical errors and you don’t make big plays in the course of the game, you’re not going to win. Their kids made a bunch of big plays, we had some opportunities and didn’t do it and that’s within the coaching staff and with our players. In big games, that’s not going to help you. This week, we’ve got, obviously, a challenging opponent. It’s a team that, to me, has a tremendous amount of challenge. They were preseason top 10 for a reason. All of those guys are still on the football team and they have a premier quarterback in the SEC and a guy who is probably going to be a top NFL player. So we have our hands full. We’re going to have to perform very, very well to perform Saturday daytime.
More hands-on with the defense this week after all of the communication issues?
I’m pretty hands-on on both sides of the ball. At this point I don’t know if I’ll just completely change our routine of how we do things at this point in the season. I’ll kind of do what I do and make sure we do a better job of coaching it and making sure that everybody is on the same page.
More on issues of communication in the defensive secondary:
It’s communication. It’s everybody being on the same page. It can be an awful lot of different times. One, you’re playing a hurry-up team, if they get up to the ball, snap it fast and we’re not getting the call in fast enough from the sideline. Two, there’s confusion in communicating the call from the linebackers to the defensive front and then communication of guys just doing the wrong thing and the one guy making mistake or one guy M-A-ing on the play. WHen you have a missed assignment like that it can be glaring. Teams we’ve played have taken advantage of that.
On tailback LaDarius Perkins’ status for this week (quad injury):
I talked to him after the game last night. Obviously when you’re dealing with a muscle injury you never know but I feel pretty good. It was a decision that we made. We thought he might be able to play and it was a decision we made right before the kickoff that he was not going to be 100 percent. It’s one of those things that, by playing, could make it worse. A lot of times if there are guys with injuries, they’re going to be beat up. If playing can’t make it any worse, we’ll let them go. We felt by playing this one we could make it worse, so we decided to hold him for his well-being. According to our trainers – and he’s pretty adamant he’s playing this week. We’ll see with the training report how close he’ll get.
How concerned about third down conversions, especially the failed third-and-2 when Tyler Russell tried a QB sneak?
He saw something, and he audibled to that on his own. There were a bunch of plays he audibled to that were big plays for us and a couple that weren’t, and that’s part of our confidence in him, that we give him some range. If he could do it again, he probably wouldn’t have done that. But he made some that were big plays. You live with that. They’re one of the best defenses in the country, and we had some opportunities. Probably the two third-and-shorts are the disappointing ones that we should’ve converted on.
Any overriding issues that come to mind in last three games versus Arkansas?
Issue No. 1 is their quarterback always seems to light it up and have his career games against us. Three years they’ve been able to do that. You go into a game, and to their credit they have NFL-style quarterbacks, and they have another one this year (Tyler Wilson). We’re going to have to play on our A game, because when he’s on, he’s probably one of the top picks in the NFL Draft, one of the best quarterbacks in the country. You have to assume that he’s going to be on and ready to play, and we’ve got to do a great job of making plays on the defensive side of the ball.
Have you seen any vulnerabilities with Arkansas that’s different from past years?
I haven’t watched them, I’ve just seen them on TV. I haven’t got into breaking them down yet. Just watching them on TV, I don’t know, I just see a team that’s got a tremendous amount of talent and have been in situations, I know they’ve had some tough breaks it seems like all year this year. There’s a lot of teams that have tough breaks, but when they come out and play their A game, they still have that top-10 talent they can put out there on the field that they were in preseason.
How frustrated are you with kickoff coverage this year?
It is, and you look at things. We’ve tried to put some different guys out there, give guys opportunities to make plays. But in a lot of that stuff, like a lot of things with special teams, you usually can pinpoint one guy mis-fitting a gap and getting out of a gap and making a mistake. When you do that against really good teams with the talented teams that we play, you’re going to get yourself in some trouble. We had a couple of opportunities to make some big tackles inside the 10, and we missed then last night. When you miss that first one and there’s a great athlete with the ball in his hand, they have the opportunity to go do something special with it.
Did Devon Bell’s pop-up kickoff near end of first half have to do with protecting your kick coverage?
That was a called kick. We were going into the wind at that point. We were going into the wind, it was the end of the half, 40 seconds left in the half. Actually he executed it perfectly. They fair caught it at the 29-yard line, which is right what we expected them to do at that point. We came out later in the game and kicked it deep to them. That was really more of a timing than anything else.