Monday with Mullen

Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen held his weekly press conference on Monday to discuss the top-ranked Bulldogs win over UT Martin and preview their road outing against No. 4 Alabama.

The following is a transcript of Mullen’s time at the podium.

Opening Statement:

“We are excited. This is a big game. Obviously, having the opportunity to play in big games late in the season is what it is all about. It is what we work for. Hopefully that becomes the norm for our program as we continue to move forward. We have a great challenge this week in Alabama. They have one of the best, if not the best, defense in the nation. They do it how they have always done it. They have great players and they have depth. They are big and very physical. They are strong against the run and can get after the passer with great pass rushers. They have great size in the secondary and can cover really well. They are really a complete defense. That is going to be a great challenge for us. They have just as much talent on the other side of the ball. Their quarterback (Blake Sims) has the highest passer rating in the SEC. They have the top wide receiver (Amari Cooper) in the country. Looking at the running backs they roll through, they are five deep five stars. They have the top rated passer, the top receiver, and one of the top running backs. That is a pretty good combination. They also have an enormous offensive line. They have great players on special teams who are threats. They probably have more five star players sitting on the bench than we have on our entire team. This is a great challenge for us with all of the talent that they have. Alabama is a tough place to go play. Our guys are going to have to execute and play at a very, very high level.”

On turnovers:

“If we continue down that path, they will get us. If you look, we have capitalized on turnovers in some big games. We have lost a couple of those battles the last couple of weeks and have found a way to win. They are not the deciding factor, but I certainly think they can be a huge factor in deciding games. When you are going to be playing in a big game, like we are Saturday, you have to do a good job with all of the important statistics in the game of football.”

On the team’s energy this week:

“We have had really good energy the last couple of weeks of practice. It is a long season and these are young kids. These guys have been going at it since the start of camp. I think you want that energy to stay high. In a game like this, the energy is going to be high all week at practice. This is a game our guys have been looking forward to.”

On Alabama’s rush defense:

“You have to block them. They are big and physical up front. If we are going to have success we have to block their guys. We have to capitalize when we have opportunities. In a game like this, every play is not going to be a huge play. We have to capitalize when we get an opportunity.”

On slowing down Alabama WR [Amari] Cooper:

“We cannot do the same thing over and over again. They will find out what we are doing and will take advantage of it. We have to change up the looks and the people that are covering him. He is going to catch the ball, but when he catches it we have to get him on the ground. He is really good before the catch, but he is even better after the catch. We have to limit the damage to just the catch.”

On the kicking game the last few weeks:

“I think they have done a good job for us. I always want more. I think they have been very consistent. That is one of the most important things at that position. They are coming in at a skill position in specific situations. We need consistent performances out of them. Most guys know how much they are going to play in a game, but those guys do not know how much they are going to play. They have to be ready for their five or six plays throughout a four hour game.”

On Alabama’s program:

Nick Saban has the model program in the country right now. They seem to be a team that is always in the championship discussion every single year. He has done a great job. Hopefully, we are building our program to be a consistent winner like they are.”

On WR [De’Runnya] Wilson:

“I think every game is kind of unique. One of the things that has made our offense pretty good this year is that we have a lot guys that can beat you. If they try to take one guy away then someone else is going to have a big day.”

On WR [Jameon] Lewis and OL [Justin] Malone:

“We expect them to be 100 percent this week at practice. Part of the reason we held them out last week was so they would be 100 percent this week. Hopefully that plan worked and they are ready to go practice this afternoon.”

On playing as an underdog:

“In every article you read, we are big underdogs heading into this game. We know that role. We are going to be ok with that. Our guys are going to come in with a chip on their shoulder and play with great effort. No matter what everyone else is predicting, we want to play that way every week.”

On QB [Dak] Prescott:

“I think his experience helps going into a hostile environment. That is always tough as a quarterback. I think he has been in that situation before. A couple of years ago he got in the game in Tuscaloosa. Now he has played in big games. He is going to walk on the field with confidence knowing that the situation is not going to be too big for him.”

On Mississippi State’s experience in big games:

“Our guys have been in big stadiums with loud, hostile crowds before. Our guys have been in that position before and that gives players confidence. When you walk in to a hard place to go play with a loud, hostile crowd, the fact that you have been in that situation before gives you confidence.”

On Alabama’s recent struggles against dual-threat quarterbacks:

“I would say struggle is a strong term. Struggling for them might be a great game for other people. There have been plenty of dual-threat quarterbacks that have gone in there, and they have contained them pretty well. I think, in our offense, we are going to need guys like [Dak] Prescott and [Josh] Robinson to make plays. This is not going to be any different. There are going to be a lot of one-on-one opportunities across the field. We need guys to make plays when they get the opportunity.”

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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