Monday with Mullen

Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen held his weekly press conference on Monday to discuss the No. 4 Bulldogs’ loss to Alabama and preview the Vanderbilt game.

The following is a transcript of Mullen time at the podium…

Opening Statement…

It’s a big game for us this week with it being the last home game for our seniors. They’ve done a great job within this program. They’re bought into everything that we have tried to build here and have been very successful and set a lot of records and new standards here at Mississippi State. A great day to come out and honor those guys in their last home game this Saturday. It’s going to be a tough challenge for us. Obviously, every SEC game is a tough challenge with Vanderbilt coming in.  They have a very young team. I think they have really made some strides (Johnny) McCrary now at quarterback where they had a bunch of issues early in the season. I think they’ve made an awful lot of improvements. They’re a tough defense; play hard, play physical and will be a huge challenge for us. We have to see and make sure our guys come out. We have to play better. We have to continue to improve from where we were last week. If we can do that and hopefully find a way to win and finish with a perfect record at home this season, which I think would be only the second time in school history to 7-0 at home. That would be fantastic for these guys and for our fans that have bought so much into what we’re trying to build, that they are a huge part of it. We’ve made such an emphasis on winning and home, and going undefeated at home would be a special deal.”

On responding to the Alabama loss…

We had a good practice (Sunday). They’re off (Monday). Getting guys treatments and getting guys healthy and healed up a little bit. Everyone is banged up at this point in the season.  I thought they did a good job at practice (Sunday) and we’ll see on Saturday how they respond to it and come out. We’ve handled winning very well this season, so we’ll see how we handle this adversity at this point. It’s late in the year for that to happen, but we’ll see how our guys handle it.”

On wide receiver Jameon Lewis returning…

He did OK. I think just getting back in the rhythm of it. Fortunately, being an older player, it’s easier for him. Even the moment and the game, he’s played in a lot of big games. He was just getting back out there going to play. Where a younger player might be, ‘I’m back,’ then the moment on top of it is huge. I think he handled it pretty well, played pretty well. I’m glad to say after the game, our guys thought he felt good. Last time he got out there he’s been kind of sore even though he played minimally. He played a bunch Saturday and felt really good after the game. He should be good to go moving forward.”

On senior defensive back Jay Hughes…

All of (our seniors) have amazing stories. As a young man, obviously a very high character young man. To me, it says so much about our program that, he was getting a lot of opportunities to go to different schools. He chose to come to Mississippi State knowing every detail about the program with his dad (Tony Hughes) being on staff here, and still chose to come be a part of it and wanted to be a part of this football family. He’s a Mississippi State graduate. He’s a team captain. He’s given everything he has to this program. It just shows the type of person he is going to be moving forward in life. When he’s looking at a goal, he’s going to commit himself to that goal and give everything he has. He’s going to be very successful in life.”

On College Football Playoff ranking…

There is so much football still to be played this year. We have to worry about trying to beat Vanderbilt this weekend. The playoff committee has their meetings all day Monday. I’m in my game planning meetings all day Monday. I’m more focused on beating Vanderbilt, and I’m sure they’re focused on trying to analyze 128 teams and how they rank those teams.”

On maintaining focus in preparation against a winless team in the SEC…

Go ask our team’s opinion of Arkansas, who you could have said the same thing about a couple weeks ago. You ask any of our players their opinion of Arkansas, and they’d say that they’re one of the best teams in the country. In this league, our guys really understand that, especially the older guys and they set the tempo of the program. When you look on film and you look at how teams play, a lot of times you’re not watching the TV game copies. You’re watching the cut-ups, and you’re watching how Vanderbilt has some very young players that have improved throughout the season. They have won two of their last four games. They’re coming off a bye-week so they have had the extra week to get ready for us. They’re going to be healthier and fresher with more preparation time leading into this game. Our guys understand that stuff and understand what a hard challenge it’s going to be.”

On Dak Prescott’s interceptions against Alabama…

They’re all so different. Every one of them is such a different play and a different things going on. It’s hard to group any of them together.”

On Dak Prescott’s back-shoulder passing…

He’s only thrown one back-shoulder interception this year. I think that was the Auburn game. The (defender) made a good play. I think he should have gone over the top. I think he just misread it on that particular play.”

On turnover margin…

To me, we’ve got to create more turnovers on defense. We have to protect the ball better on offense. I don’t know if there are many teams in the top 25, and our guys look at that, you look at the quality of team that we have, there probably aren’t many teams in the top 25 that are negative turnover ratio on the year. Our guys look at the quality of team that we have, even despite that, we’re still winning games and a lot of games. They look at that pretty positively and understand that you have to do a much better job of protecting the ball.”

On his name being brought up in coaching carousel…

I live in reality. My reality is to win football games at Mississippi State and building this program to be the best program that I can be in. I don’t live in the chat-line, blog-line and call-in radio world.”

On wide receiver De’Runnya Wilson…

Going into last year, he hadn’t played much football, and all he had played was some high school football. The length of the season, the competitiveness of the season, the detail of the game – every aspect that way is very draining on a young man. He still has a long way to go. I think he’s more comfortable in this season in understanding what the football season is going to entail. He goes from football to basketball back to football is exhausting. It can be mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting. I think he’s really handled all that stuff well. Coming into this year, I think he’s really learned how to be a wide receiver and how to prepare for games. He’s had big games, and other games he hasn’t put in as many stats where they’re trying to take him away, and that’s OK. We haven’t seen him be frustrated. If teams are going to give him one-on-one opportunities, he’s won, and he’s had some pretty good games. If they’re going to roll coverage to him or double-team him, he understands about being a great teammate because if they’re going to double him somebody else is going to be open. He’s handled all of that stuff, the part of being a football player aspect and not just a great talent.”

On change in pressure after a loss…

We control our destiny in this game this week. We don’t ever worry more than this one game. You never can. All we can control is the next game. I think we’re in complete control and how we perform against Vanderbilt. That’s been our focus all season. When you worry about other things, that’s when you start losing. We don’t like to do that. Our whole focus is on the next game. I think our leadership has done an unbelievable job of that throughout the entire course of this season of keeping this team focused on that task at hand. Our team has done a great job of that, and our leadership needs to do another great job of it this week in getting ready for Vanderbilt.”

 

 

 

 

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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