Monday with Mullen

Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen held his weekly press conference on Monday to discuss the Bulldogs’ 21-19 SEC-opening loss to LSU and upcoming game against Northwestern State.

Opening statement …

“Our prayers go to everybody at Delta State. That is always a scary situation. I know it was a scary situation on campus here a couple of weeks ago. All of our prayers are with them in Cleveland, Mississippi, today.”

“We have to get ready. We have a tough game this week for us with Northwestern State. We saw last week how challenging it is if you don’t come out and you’re not prepared to play your best game. You’re in a battle. It will be a good challenge to our team this week. They have a bunch of solid players. They have a great receiver, dynamic and fast running backs and quarterbacks who can cause some issues and have some athletic ability. They are a very aggressive defense. They’ll blitz much more than any team we have seen this season. They will really come at you in a lot of different directions. We are going to have to execute at a very high level and just handle all of the different things that are going to be thrown at us on Saturday. Being at home is going to help. We had an unbelievable atmosphere last Saturday and anytime you play at home we expect to have that same type of crowd and atmosphere. Fortunately, we get to play in the daytime this week too. Our fans can actually come and enjoy the game. I thank all of our fans for an unbelievable atmosphere they created for us. That was a disappointing loss for us. We have the problems we have to fix. We make that kick at the end of the game, we still have the same problems. The only difference between the game yesterday that we had and that ball being eight feet to the left is we have all of the same issues and problems with a big giant smile on our face. We have to work to get better as a football team in every phase and we have to continue to improve throughout the season.”

On the offensive line …

“Honestly, I think our guys settled down a little bit in the second half. It wasn’t a huge rally. It was more relaxed. When you look at some guys that are newer faces playing their first SEC game they are getting use to the adjustments, speed and what is happening out there on the field. I thought the guys settled down and played better. We didn’t need to make adjustments. We just needed to execute better and to not worry. We made silly mistakes in the first half as we went back and looked at it. These are younger kids still. They are out there on a field in a crazy environment, late at night on a Saturday and national television. They have to learn how to handle those situations.”

On the rushing game …

“I don’t mind throwing it. I just want to score points and move the ball. I am good doing either. When I watch the first two weeks they have given up some big chunk plays. They gave up some big hits which when you watch what they do as much as they pressure. I think that is more of the yards that they have given up. Their average that they are giving up is a lot worse than their efficiency which is the percentage of plays which were efficient run plays.”

On Dak Prescott running less …

“Looking back, I think there were a couple of times that he could have scrambled, but I also think there are a couple of times that he used to scramble where he stayed in the pocket and made throws. I think it is just that fine line of back and forth. It is not something by design. I think it is just his development and the fact that he is getting farther through progressions in the pass game that you are seeing him take off and run less.”

On the execution on the final drive …

“I believe we executed unbelievably well until I made the call. I have to do a better job. My thought was I wanted to get the ball to the 20 for a field goal. I wanted to score a touchdown and not even have to kick the ball.  Getting the ball to the 20 in retrospect we should have probably just stuck with our guns and get it to the 25 yard line. The three last play calls were on me. When you look at that situation and you have one timeout left and it is first and 10, if you run it on that situation and don’t get a first down that is the last play you run. You will take the timeout and kick the field goal. There is not going to be enough time at that point to set it and run another play. On the delay of game that is solely on me. That was me trying to force. I think our guys executed it very well. I think I misjudged that deal at the end of the game and that is on me. I could have made a different call but my thought process was that we needed to get eight to nine more yards. We have that timeout to get us to a 37 yard field goal.”

On linebacker Beniquez Brown …

“He makes a lot of calls for us on the defensive side of the ball. He gets people lined up and puts us in position to make plays. He makes a lot of plays for us. Even if he is not making the tackle, he is still making plays. He does an awful lot for the defense. He is a great example for our younger guys when you look at how hard he works at the game and the time that he puts in to be successful. I think that is great for the leadership within the program.”

On the defensive line …

“I think they are coming along nicely. I really like how the guys have stepped up. Ryan Brown is steady. He is a guy who always, from day one, put everything in and he works his tail off. Chris Jones, to me, trying to develop to be an every snap payer. He makes some big plays, but still makes some mistakes. Nick James, I am really pleased with how he has been playing in the course of the game with learning how to take the improvements he has made in practice and transform them onto the field. A.J. (Jefferson), I think he has become a playmaking performer for us. I am really pleased with what he has done. I think those guys have worked really hard to put themselves in this position.”

On the kicking competition …

“Part of it is I look at that and I feel really good with Westin (Graves) to 42 yards, which is the ball at the 25-yard line. He can probably go a little bit beyond that. I always sit with them and I don’t want them to change their technique and their form then kick a field goal. The worse thing that happens is they start trying to hit it too hard. For me to ask him to go beyond that is going to get him out of rhythm and sync. I was worried on the kick. In my mind I was wondering if it was better percentage to throw the ball or try a 52-yard field goal into the wind. When he missed the first one he had the distance, he just pulled it bad. I think he had the distance on it. You can see in Devon (Bell) that his range is a lot farther, where Westin I am not sure he could get the ball. Our philosophy going in was that if we have to attempt a long field goal, Devon is the one who can hit that. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it.”

On running back/return specialist Brandon Holloway …

“I look at our two tailbacks and Ashton Shumpert goes out there for the first play of the game, but their rep difference is not a whole lot. Brandon (Holloway) is basically a starting tailback right now. Those guys play pretty equal reps throughout the course of the game. I think he has done a great job of that. I don’t look at it that it is a challenge to be the starter, but I feel he is already in a rotating role already. I don’t know that it would expand any more than where he already is with him getting half of the reps.”

On wide receiver De’Runnya Wilson …

“I think he is going to be fine. He practiced yesterday. I don’t think that is going to be much of an issue. I think a couple of things happened to us. We moved him around a little bit because they were trying to double team him most of the time when he was at the single side receiver. They started getting out of the double teams when we started moving him around. When we started moving the ball, they started blitzing which was when he started creating those one on one opportunities. We did make the adjustments to try to move him to create a different matchup with him on the field. When they started to leave him one on one he was able to make those plays. If you’re going to leave him one on one, we expect him to win most of those battles.”

On the overall game …

“This game, it was a three-and-a-half hours inside draw. They threw the ball for 80 yards on the night. Part of our deal, we wanted to put a lot more on the quarterback. They were able to run the ball. I think that our slow start on offense really played into letting them run their game plan which was to run the ball and not throw it at all. I think our slow start on offense led to what happened on defense.”

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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