Mullen talks Orange Bowl bid

Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen met with the media on Sunday to talk about the Bulldogs’ Orange Bowl bid against Georgia Tech.

The following is a transcript of what Mullen had to say.

Opening Statement …

“It’s a great honor for our team, our program and our university to be invited to go play in the Capital One Orange Bowl. I think that is very, very special. We’re going to party like it’s 1941 down there. A bowl game is such a special reward for such a special season especially this one, one of the premiere bowl games in all of college football. It is very, very special for our fans. We’re happy that we can provide this opportunity and experience for them and to travel too. I know we’ll have a huge crowd there, unbelievable support for our program as they’ve done all year for us. They’ve supported this team and cheered them on. To wrap it up, every team has a one-year shelf life. This team was born last January, and the last experience this team will have is on New Year’s Eve. That’s going to be a special, special deal to play in such a premiere bowl game against a great opponent in Georgia Tech, who’s coming off an excellent season. They won their division and played in a tight game in their conference championship game last night. Obviously, they’re well-deserved and going to be a difficult opponent for us. I can tell you that our guys are going to be really happy. This is a special experience.”

“I’ve had the opportunity to coach in the Orange Bowl. This will be my third trip to the Orange Bowl as a coach. The way the people down there in Miami—the committee and the community—run the bowl is first class. It will be an unbelievable experience for all of our guys. As Mississippi invades Miami for New Year’s, it’s going to be a pretty big deal and a special time for all of us.”

“I’m very fortunate, I think our program is headed in the right direction. I hope this is more than norm than the every 70-year deal. For us, as we continue to move forward, we have an unbelievably great administration, great leadership within our administration and great facilities. We’ve all worked for this type of goal. We came here to build a team to compete for championships. I think we were able to compete. We didn’t get to the point that we wanted to in winning the SEC West, but the opportunity to go play in one of the most premiere bowl games in the country is pretty special. It’s something that we want to continue to build on in the future as we continue to build this program into one of the best programs in the United States.”

On injuries …

 “Kendrick Market is out with a torn Achilles tendon. Everybody else should be available.”

On Dak Prescott’s Heisman Trophy possibility …

“I think when you look at what a guy has done for his team and his value to the team, he’s certainly deserving of it in that way. He fell just short of being a 3,000-yard passer and a 1,000-yard rusher. He’ll have the opportunity in the bowl game to eclipse both of those marks. It’s very, very special; that doesn’t happen very often. I think he’s put us in position. I know it’s an individual award and we’re so focused on team. It will be an unbelievable honor to even be considered as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. I think it’s a great honor for him in what he’s done and for our program. He’s also a finalist for the Maxwell, Davey O’Brien and Manning Awards. It speaks volumes to the type of year and what he’s been able to do. Hopefully, tomorrow night, we will find out if he’s finalist for the Heisman Trophy.”

On past experiences in the Orange Bowl …

“Well, I’m 1-and-1. It’s kind of interesting. I’ve lost a game as a graduate assistant at Syracuse. I’ve won a game as the head coach at Mississippi State/offensive coordinator at Florida. What I remember about the trip is never being more exhausted in my life than being an offensive coordinator for a national championship game and at the same time being a head coach about to take over a program.”

“The last time I was there, I called the game, practice, ran down on the field and grabbed the trophy. My wife took a quick picture with me and the crystal ball. We handed it to someone else, went back to the hotel and packed up. I was so wired up. We had just won a national championship. I said goodbye to my family as they were about to go enjoy a nice celebration party. I got on the plane, woke up the next morning and had my first team meeting here. It was extremely exhaustive, but it was a great win. The hospitality that everybody shows, the facilities they have and their treatment of the players is a great experience for the program. It’s nothing but first class, if not the best bowl game in the United States.”

On Saturday’s practice …

“I tell you what, there was great energy out there on the field. Guys were pretty fired up and excited to get back out there. I think it will be even bigger and better the next time we hit the field. If you asked our guys where they would like to go or got to vote as a team, they certainly would had picked the Orange Bowl. The opportunity of going to Miami will be a unique experience and special. I think they will be even more fired up next time they hit the practice field. I loved the attitude. I thought everybody had a great attitude. We had a solid practice.  As we explained, our next practice is approximately 40 practices away from game week against Southern Miss next year. That’s the focus of these five practices and then there’s a transition. It shifts into getting ready for this bowl game. But, the next five practices are focused on building the program for the future.”

On past games versus Georgia Tech …

“I remember the last time we faced them we ran for more yards than they did, but they passed for more yards than we did. So it was a pretty interesting game. A guy named Demaryius Thomas had over 200 yards. It was kind of a unique deal. It’s obviously a very unique challenge. One of the challenges for us is simulating the triple-option. We have to simulate that in practice. Georgia Tech [head] coach [Paul] Johnson is the master of the triple option. It’s coached at such a high level by a coach that knows every adjustment he has to make and how the offense works. We have to do a good job of simulating that to the best of our ability in practice to get out guys prepared for what we’re going to face at the Capital One Orange Bowl.”

On extra practices helping build the program …

“I think it’s huge. As I said, we use a little bit of it for the future. Guys get a feel for the future. There’s guys that were kind of in redshirt mode this year or backup mode where they’re not involved. This is kind of a reminder. When I pull out the seniors and call up the first and second-team defense, offense or special teams, those guys are now in that rotation. It’s kind of that wake-up call for them before we get into this offseason that they may be a guy that might be back on the scout team when we get into actual game preparation, but right now they may be a rotator. That means they’re looking to be a starter next year or they’re a snap away from being a starter next year. It’s a huge wake-up call for those guys in the sense of urgency they need to have in practice for preparation for their future.”

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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