Monday with Mullen

Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen held his weekly press conference on Monday to discuss the No. 4 Bulldogs’ win over Vanderbilt and preview the Egg Bowl.

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

Opening statement …

“Last Saturday was a great win for our seniors. To go undefeated at home this season is pretty special. I’m really pleased with how our team responded. I know I said that postgame. The question last week was how are we going to respond? How are we going to respond? How are we going to respond? I thought we had a great week of practice, and it translated into what you wanted to see, a team that was ready to hit the field hungry, angry and ready to prove what we could do last Saturday. I’m pleased with that. A lot of guys got an opportunity to play. We played a lot of players in the game, which is always really important for experience in getting reps and keeping everybody focused throughout the season. Obviously, this week changes everything with it being rivalry week. It’s the last regular season game. You have to leave it all out there on the field. You kind of work year-round for this type of game. It will be fun. I know we will being going into a hostile environment. It’s a tough place to go play. I don’t think they are big fans of mine in that part of the state. It should be a great challenge for us.”

On Dak Prescott’s performance versus Vanderbilt …

“I thought he did really well. I thought he managed things well. I didn’t see anything different than other weeks. We didn’t take many shots down-the-field, where he would make a play down-the-field or give guys opportunities. We were able to run the football and I think stuck with the running game a little bit more, all night long. Obviously, when the running game is rolling it takes some pressure off of the quarterback from having to make plays.”

On the importance of the 2014 Egg Bowl …

“Every one of these is as important as the other one. This is my sixth time playing in this game, and I view the other five as equally as important as this one. I know this is the biggest game of the year for us. As far as the records, none of that stuff really matters coming into this game. It’s all about winning the game and getting bragging rights in the state for a year.”

On linebacker Christian Holmes …

“I think he’s a great example. He’s such a great example for younger players. As you look at what the college game is all about, it’s development. He came into this year after being a role player on offense, defense and special teams. He was in the top 15 in snaps played on our team last year because of special teams. For younger guys, it’s important to look and understand that everyone has a role on the team, to go embrace your role and do it to the best of your ability. When you do that you are going to have success. It’s great for a lot of players who come in and think they are going to be the star wide receiver and aren’t worried about being anything else other than the star wide receiver. To teach guys how to learn the game of football, learn the different roles on the team and learn how important every single role is and they look at all the success he has had. He does his role, performs at a really high level and has a lot of success.”

On changing the culture of the Egg Bowl and embracing the rivalry …

“That’s all I did was embrace it. Rivalry games are so important. I’m fortunate enough to have been involved in some. I don’t know that any have been as big or as nasty [as the Egg Bowl]. USC vs. Notre Dame, Florida vs. Florida State and Utah vs. BYU are all big games, but they aren’t like this. I think this is bigger than all of those rivalries. It’s neighbor against neighbor. There’s so much in this trophy and with the bragging rights that go on in this state. I think everybody in this state takes this game extremely seriously, as well as the outcome. They hold on to that outcome for 365 days, until it gets played again and you have another opportunity to grab those bragging rights for that year.”

On the Ole Miss defense …

“They play hard. They’re a team that plays really hard. They play fast, they play a bunch of guys and rotate guys through. They play a very, very aggressive style. They’ll bring pressure almost 50 percent of the time. They’re not the biggest defense we play, but they’re athletic, quick, fast and run at the ball really well.”

On the importance of last year’s Egg Bowl win …

“[It’s] huge. All of the other stuff is great, but winning the game is the most important. It got us bowl eligible. It got us some extra practices. But winning the game is the biggest deal. We won the game my first year here. It didn’t get us to a bowl game but it really catapulted us into the next season. So I think it is so important to win that game and have that trophy in your possession for your program, the university as a whole, the fan base and the alumni everywhere.”

On Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace’s turnovers versus Arkansas …

“It’s hard to judge. One of the things that can get you in danger is judge last week’s game as having any relevance toward this week. I think they turned it over six times last week. That’s not going to happen. It will be a very different to that we face. Look at what he does as a quarterback. He makes plays. When you look at the style that he plays, he’s a very dangerous player. He’s going to take some chances out there on the field, and he’s not afraid to throw some balls in some tight windows. You’re going to make a lot of big plays by doing that. Now, there’s the risk/reward that comes with it. There’s some that aren’t going to go his way. But the fact that as a quarterback he has the confidence to go make those plays makes him a dangerous player out there on the field. He’s a guy that can get hot and beat you in a hurry.”

On the community, alumni and players during Egg Bowl week …

“It’s such a big deal to everybody. We’re always in lock-down mode here. So I don’t get to see much of it outside of this building. We let our guys go home for Thanksgiving to spend time with family. With school finishing up on Tuesday, we kind of tweak our schedule around. We end up being in here a lot earlier in the week. So we don’t really get out all that much. We get all of our work done early so our guys can go have Thanksgiving with their families.”

On Scott Sallach’s development of the tight ends …

“He’s done a great job. Malcolm [Johnson] has done a great job. It’s a tough position that he plays. We ask him to do so much. He [Sallach] has done a great job of getting those guys ready. I think offensively, other than quarterback, it’s the position that we ask the most of from our guys. They’re playing tight end, they’re playing fullback and they’re playing wide receiver. They’re asked to do more than everybody else out there on the field. So he’s [Sallach] done a great job with those guys in making sure they’re ready to go play and in position to make plays and find ways to make mismatches on the field.”

On the Egg Bowl’s contribution to success at Mississippi State …

“I think it’s huge because around here, that’s who you’re around. I think our fans look at it as if you go to the grocery store you see “the school up north” people. When you go to the country club, you see those people. When you’re out at church you see those people. I don’t know how many different academic competitions we do or other things, but this is Mississippi, and football is really important here. I think that’s what people kind of judge the two schools on is this game. That’s what makes it important for all of the people.”

On road-game experience and preparation …

“I think if you look at it for us, our road games were spread out. I think there was only one time we had consecutive road games this season. It doesn’t hurt in terms of preparation. We’ll stay at our team hotel here on Friday night, and we’ll bus up there on Saturday. But previously being on the road this season helps in that preparation in practice. We’ll also move the defensive speakers to the offensive field in practice. We’ll have to get used to using silent cadences and all of that stuff. Besides that, our preparation stays pretty much the same.”

On this week’s routine …

“We do the overall routine. The structure and outline kind of stays the same. A little bit of the specifics change in what we do. It’s a little bit more intense week of practice. With school being out after Tuesday, the schedule changes a little bit. Our guys have all day [Wednesday], and we can space some things out. And, it’s also Thanksgiving. The smaller changes in the schedule make things a little different, and I think our guys know that, which is really what we want. We want our guys to know this game has a different feel than all the rest of them.”

On De’Runnya Wilson’s injury status …

“It’s good. He was cleared to play Saturday, but he didn’t practice much during the week. He practiced a little bit on Wednesday. He practiced all of Thursday’s practice and did the walk-thru on Friday. The doctors cleared him, but having not practiced all that much, we wanted to see how the flow of the game was going. If he didn’t have to play, we weren’t going to play him. With everyone at the position staying healthy during the game, we didn’t have to call on him. He was ready to go yesterday at the meeting. He was all fired up and ready to go. He was ready to play Saturday, and when he didn’t play, he got a little extra juice built up in him to go play this week.”

On the sense of urgency at practice last week and its transition to this week …

“There was great leadership at practice with how they structured things and got everybody going. Obviously, it translated very well onto the field. A lot of our older guys have a sense of urgency you have to have for this game in terms of what a big game it is for both sides and how personal it is for everybody on both rosters. Our older guys will make sure we have that urgency and intensity at practice all week.”

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.

Posted in Football Tagged with: , , , , , ,


Want Email Updates? Warning... We Update Often

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 635 other subscribers