Monday with Mullen

Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen held his weekly press conference on Monday to discuss the Bulldogs’ bye week and preview their game against Missouri.

Opening Statement…

“We’re excited to get back out there and go play. We had the opportunity to get a little rest this weekend for our guys. It was an opportunity to step away from the game and spend a little personal time to go home and see family and relax, some for the coaches, to get a quick breather. With this week being a short week, the preparation is a little different than other bye weeks in the past. I think our guys have handled it really well. We practiced last night with what was our Tuesday practice, and then we have a Wednesday practice today. I like the attitude and approach our guys took. Taking the field last night, our guys took the field with a lot of energy and juice. We picked up right where we left off with Thursday being the last practice we had as a Monday practice for this game week. We have a huge challenge playing a team like Missouri with, statistically speaking, the best defense in the Southeastern Conference. We’re playing on the road in a tough environment. We haven’t been up there before. It’s going to be a huge challenge for us. We’re going to have to go out and execute and play at an extremely high level.”

On the Missouri defense…

“They play hard. They have explosive pass rushers off the edge. They have really big, physical guys inside on the defensive line. They create havoc outside with athleticism and size inside. They can rush the passer and they can stop the run all with that defensive line. I think that’s one of the things that make them a darn good defense, it’s the talent they have on the defensive line.”

On preparing on a short week…

“You have to get your calendar set differently. The game day one is the biggest difference. You wake up on Saturday, and most of the time you’re in football mode. There are other games. Especially if you are playing late at night, you’re around the hotel all day or watching other games. You’re watching College GameDay or SEC Nation in the morning and getting yourself ready for some football when you’re not walking through or in your prep time. I think that mindset is you have to be locked in and focused. That’s something that a little different when you’re sitting at the hotel on Thursday.”

On punter Logan Cooke’s progression…

“I think one, it’s more comfortable for him being out there. He had to get forced into a game about five minutes before kickoff. When it happened he never really had to get nervous for a game. He played in a game without having to get nervous for it. I think when you look at him back there, he’s a much more veteran player right now and has a lot of different game experiences.”

On offensive linemen being more comfortable…

“We tell all of our guys we want to have fun while we’re out there. Everybody wants to play hard and play their best. It’s finding that balance, not just the O-linemen but every position, finding that balance in being comfortable in what you’re doing on the field, in knowing your assignment, knowing your technique and being able to do it as hard as you possibly can. Within the program guys, to me, are invested the program and they are very accountable to their teammates. When you have that, guys want to do the right thing not just for themselves but for their teammates. They have to learn to relax and have fun while they are doing it and trust in they have put in. Trust in what they’ve put in during the week, offseason, training camp and during their career to prepare for those game moments.”

On changing preparation without Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk…

“Not a whole lot. They’ve been playing (Drew Lock) for a couple weeks now. They’re going to run their system. They’re going to do what they do. It’s not like they’ve completely changed who they are at the quarterback position when they went to the young freshman.”

On MSU’s team identity…

“I think the team is coming together. I think one thing, especially when you have younger players, they realize they are hoping we’re getting better as the season goes on. We want to continue to do that. We want to peak at the end of the season, not at the beginning or the middle. I think our guys have really bought in to that and they really pay close attention to how they can improve themselves and as a team from one week to the next. I think schematically we have settled in to where we’re playing well, what we’re doing well and how to execute that at a high level.”

On having bye-week ahead of Thursday night game and two days off for next Saturday…

“Having the bye week before Thursday helps because you would be sitting there off a short week. If you play Saturday, you come back in Sunday to review that game, Monday and Tuesday to practice, you’re traveling Wednesday and playing Thursday. We’ve done that a bunch before in the past in my coaching career. To me, it’s both teams going through the same deal. If one of us played Saturday, I think it’s a different advantage or disadvantage. Since both teams are the same way, I don’t know if it is really a whole lot different. Then afterwards, I guess there is another 36-48 hours of rest on the physical wear and tear on your body.”

On miraculous game-winning special teams plays so far in college football and execution…

“You practice those situations. It’s a weird deal to practice to get however many laterals that you get. You practice it and you go through it, but you can’t mimic the exact situations they go through. You talk about all those situations. As coaches, everybody looks at those. Whether it was the Michigan vs. Michigan State deal, the Florida State vs. Georgia Tech deal or Auburn vs. Alabama from a couple years ago. Any of those. As coaches you look at those situations. If I’m home I’m always wondering, ‘Ok, this is what I’m thinking about doing in this particular situation.’ That always crosses my mind which I guess is healthy because it’s easy to second guess. It’s easy to watch and then say, ‘Oh, he should have done this and maybe gotten a different result.’ As a coach, you want to first guess yourself. As I’m watching I’ll say, ‘Ok, what would I do right now in this situation.’ Then you watch how it happens. Then you think what was the best result? Even if you get to watch it on highlights. What would fit our team the best? Are we putting guys in the best position to be successful and having our best players out there to have an opportunity to win a game?”

On comfort and health while practicing on a short week…

“The one thing, I guess later in the season, on having a shorter week, you kind of know what you’re doing. You’ve gained your identity as a team. You’re going to be pretty simple within your plan that week because your practice reps are going to be extremely limited. You’re going to go what you do well. I think in the Egg Bowl we had that a couple of years ago on a real short week. We were really banged up that time of year, but it ended up being OK for us. Dak (Prescott) was able to get in and play that game, where you think if we had more rest it would have been more likely. I think scheduling is what it is. Guys are going to be ready to play when game time comes, whether if it’s on one-day rest, five-day rest, seven-day rest or 14-day rest.”

On Missouri’s offense…

“I think one, they are playing a true freshman quarterback. The one thing that has jumped out to me, they have just missed some throws. It’s not like they aren’t playing well. They are inches away from putting up a lot of big numbers and a lot of big plays. Watching them in their last game against Vanderbilt, they had guys open, and with a little bit of pressure he just over throws them. I’m talking about three or four times it may have been 60 or 70-yard plays. When you watch sometimes as a coach you can say, ‘Ok, the end result is this,’ and you put up the panic flag, but as you’re watching the film you say, ‘We’re not far off from where we need to be.’ I’m sure that’s how they are looking at it.”

On Nick Bell’s legacy and impact on the program…

“A lot of the guys that remember him, and anytime that you play with somebody within your program and you lose a teammate, I think it’s hard for young guys. It’s something you’re always remembering and it’s always going to stick with you as you lose a family member way too soon in life. I know for me, as a coach, I hope I never have to deal with anything that hard in my career again. I don’t think I’ve ever had to deal with anything close to that in my career as a football coach. When you lose a family member like that, it’s just a devastating thing. I know it made a lasting impression on me, our coaches and the players within the program. I think now, looking back on it, some of the young guys know of him but don’t know him, but the guys who played with him, that’s something that’s going to stick with you forever.”

On getting wide receiver Gabe Myles back into the offense…

“One thing we’ve been able to do offensively, we don’t really hone in on one guy. We take what the defense gives you. We’re rolled a lot of different players through. As he comes rolling back in, we expect him to get back in the flow. I think, especially when you have an older quarterback like Dak that’s going to be comfortable with where guys are and different guys on the field, it’s one more weapon that’s brought to the table for us, more than ‘boy, we have to find a way to get this guy in the offense right now.’ We run the offense and you watch Dak and he’ll take what (the defense) gives him. It’s great for us that there’s one more guy out there on the field that can make things happen.”

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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