Monday with Mullen

Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen fielded questions from the media Monday about the Bulldogs upcoming game at LSU, the SEC opener for both programs.

Here’s a transcript of what Mullen had to say…

Opening Statement:

“Coming off of that last game, we are pleased. To go on the road (at South Alabama) and find a way to win is really important for us. I don’t think we did all the things we thought we needed to do to win. We did some, to a point, but we did a lot of other things to make up for that across the board, which put us in a position to win. Obviously, through the first three games of the season, we are pretty pleased with how those turned out. We are 3-0 and in a great position heading into conference play, which is really going to change things up. We were in a tough environment last week, but it’s going to be an even tougher environment playing at LSU on a Saturday night. That is always a tough environment to go in to. That is a team that brings so many weapons to the table.  On defense, they have given up seven points in the last 10 quarters. They are giving up 200 yards total per game. I know that is No. 1 in the SEC and probably in the country. So it is obviously a huge challenge for our offense. Statistically, this is the best LSU defense we have ever played going into the game. On the other side of the ball, they have an enormous offensive line and wave after wave of enormous tailbacks to pound at you to make it a big, physical game. They have the leading receiver in the SEC in big plays. They are a top 10 team in the country and playing on the road on a Saturday night is a big challenge for us. We are going to have to play at a very, very high level to find a way to win. ”

On holding back some of the game plan for conference opponents…

“We are still trying to find out who we are as a team through three weeks. I think we are going to settle down a little bit as we get in to conference play. We will experiment on some things or show some different looks to set other things up, but our goal was to win the first three games so it is not like we were holding everything back. We still haven’t shown all of our offense yet. This is obviously a very different team, so defensively we will be pretty different this week. The first couple of teams we played were spread out tempo teams, but this is going to be a ground and pound team so it will be a different defensive scheme.”

On the future …

“All that matters is this week. Every game that has ever been played there has no impact on this game. Every game we have ever played there has no impact on this game. Every game we will play against them in the future has no impact on this game.  It is all about this week and our focus on this one game.  That is what we talk to our guys about, and it is what our focus is on. With an experienced team it is pretty simple for them to understand that this is all about this one game on Saturday and not anything else.”

On his relationship with co-offensive coordinator Billy Gonzales…

“Good, unless one of the receivers drops the ball or lines up off sides. We have a great relationship because we have worked together for so long. There is a great understanding of what we are trying to get accomplished within the scheme and flow of the game. I think it is a huge advantage that we have been together that long and we know each other’s thought process.”

On defense not giving up touchdowns in the red zone…

“That is part of us playing good defense. I think all year we are playing good defense. I can’t say we are playing great defense because of the big plays we have given up down the field.  But when you take away the big chunks we are playing really good defense. That is something we continue to work on with guys and making sure guys are always in the right position. Saturday we almost got beat on two big plays where we had guys in position but they just misjudged the ball.”

On the strength of the SEC West…

“There is nowhere in the country like the SEC West. I don’t think there is a division in football at any level that is like the SEC West is right now. When you look at the percentage of the quality teams that are here, I don’t know if you can find anywhere that is like that. That is what we love. That is why all these great players come and play for us. Half of the top 10 in the nation is in the SEC West. There is great competition in the league and that is why this league has won so many national championships and is what makes it the best football in the country.”

On staying in the game against LSU last year…

“Last year late in the third quarter we were driving and missed a field goal, and then they responded with a touchdown. We have a turnover deep in our own territory and they scored again. They scored 14 points in a minute and a half, and things never go well for you when that happens. We have to execute for 60 minutes and maybe beyond that if we have to. We have to execute every snap of the game to go win.”

On playing top 10 opponents in three consecutive weeks…

“Our focus is this week. Four weeks from now who knows where everyone is going to be. The team we are playing four weeks from now could lose four straight games then everyone will be saying they were not a very good team. I can promise you whoever we are playing in the SEC West is a very good football team, regardless of ranking. Right now our focus is on this game and this game only. If we win this game we are going to be where we want to be in the SEC race. It is always important to win your first game in conference play because that really gives you a big jump start in the conference.”

On the exposure of playing on national television at LSU…

“We get a ton of publicity playing in the Southeastern Conference and playing great teams all the time. If we win we will have one day where everyone tells us how great we are, and if we lose we will have one day where everyone tells us how bad we are. Then we have to get back to work. I don’t pay much attention to it because we won’t be as good as everyone tells us we are and probably won’t be as bad as everyone tells us we are. Sunday we will be right back to working on the next opponent.”

I have covered Mississippi State in some capacity since 2004 and joined the Daily Journal staff in 2013. I enjoy short walks on the beach, performing concerts in my car and watching professional wrestling.

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