Sunday Chat: Mullen Lauds New-Look Ole Miss

Egg Bowl: No. 25 MSU (8-3, 4-3 SEC) at Ole Miss (5-6, 2-5), Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPNU (Clay Matvick play-by-play, Matt Stinchcomb analyst, Allison Williams sideline)


Welcome to Egg Bowl Week, y’all. Or as fans on both sides might call it, Hate Week. The Battle for the Golden Egg is six days away, and the talk began this morning with MSU coach Dan Mullen‘s regular Sunday teleconference. He did not utter his pet name for Ole Miss, “The School Up North,” and in fact spoke very highly of the Rebels and their new coach, Hugh Freeze.

Before we get to Mullen’s Sunday chat, here are some important notes and links for you.

• MSU is back in the AP rankings this week, tied at 25th with Utah State. The Bulldogs are 24th in the coaches poll.

• Links from my coverage of MSU’s 45-14 win over Arkansas: Game story, notebook, sidebar.

• Ole Miss suffered a tough 41-35 loss at LSU last night. Be sure you check in on Parrish Alford‘s blog for Rebel updates throughout the week.

Now, here is the full Mullen transcript.

Opening comment:

“Yesterday was a great win for us. We made a lot of plays we needed to make to win the game. There are some things we’ve got to correct. We made a bunch of mistakes, too, that could’ve cost us the game. Last couple of weeks, those mistakes have cost us. They didn’t cost us on Saturday, I guess, as much on Saturday. As you look at it for us, the fact that we made some big plays that really kind of turned it  around and gave our guys some confidence and got done the job we needed to get done.”

Ole Miss defense aggressive, good at TFLs:

“From what I’ve seen, they have a lot more smaller guys out there on the field and play with some smaller, quicker guys, try to cause some disruption that way with things. They’re a very aggressive team. They’re going to come after you. They’re not going to be afraid to pressure you and come after you with different looks.”

Lot on the line for Ole Miss this week, you’ll get better shot than last couple years:

“I don’t know. I doubt that. This game kind of stands alone for what it is. Last year’s game was bowl eligibility for us, but more importantly it was to win the Egg Bowl. I imagine you’re always going to get the other team’s best shot when you play this game.”

Showing guys correctable mistakes on film:

“It helps not just in those, but in other things we still have to correct. We still turned the ball over one time in the red zone trying to score late. It’s an issue. We did have a couple of miscommunications on defense. But I think when we look at the things that we got corrected, the things we did improve on, when you go to correct those things, you can look at a guy and say, hey, if we continue to improve and keep our focus, we can make those improvements, even this late in the season. That win, and the fact we were able to improve in certain ways is certainly going to help us as we do move forward.”

Shuffling DBs, was communication better Saturday:

“I do. I think communication was better yesterday than it was the previous game, but we still had a couple of errors. The differences in the game were, one, we created big plays on defense with all the turnovers; and two, when there was an error, they didn’t result in big plays. The resulted in mistakes and resulted in them making plays, but not to the extreme of the big plays that we’ve had in the last couple of weeks.”

Tyler Russell getting rid of ball, O-line holding up better:

“They’ve done some good things, but they’ve done good things all year. There are a lot of things with the offensive line we need to correct from yesterday, but especially this time of the season there’s some younger guys that when you look at it, at the tackle position, that are getting used to the grind of the season. When you get banged up and battered up and how you continue to fight throughout the year is very, very important. That to me is something you’re going to continue hopefully see them get used to it and continue to improve throughout their career.”

What kind of environment you expect in Oxford, fans there hungrier this year:

“Yeah. I’ll be honest with you, I think since the day I’ve gotten here they’ve wanted to get a win against me. We’re going to expect it to be a pretty wild, hostile environment like it is wherever you go on the road in this league and probably even more so because of the fact that it is a big rivalry game.”

New coaching staff at Ole Miss, new QB, doing different things on offense:

“They’re a totally different offense than they’ve been in the past. A different defense as well. That happens with a new coaching staff. To me, it’s going to be a very different team than we’ve faced in the last couple of years in that it’s different schematically, different attitude-wise, their different approach to doing things. It looks like to me that Hugh has their guys playing hard, and they’ve been playing real hard and battling right down to the end in most of their games this year. We expect a four-quarter fight.”

Do you see similarities between them and you in 2009, guys believing:

“There is always some excitement. There is always new excitement when there is something new and something different and that happens up there. It’s how much do the guys believe in what they’re doing. We’ve been very fortunate. Our guys here have really bought in to everything we’ve done as a program, and it’s showing on the field, especially this senior class, bought in from Day 1 of what we’ve been able to build over the last couple of years. It looks like they’re on the right path. They’re playing hard. The No. 1 most important thing, when you turn on a film for me, when I look at my team what I want, anyway, is when I turn on the film I want to see a team where you’ve got all 11 guys on the field playing really hard. If you do that you have the opportunity to win. I’ve seen their guys play hard this year. As I evaluate programs – I don’t know if I’m an expert – but he has them going in the right direction.”

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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