Monday with Mullen

Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen held his weekly press conference on Monday to discuss the Bulldogs’ 31-6 loss to Alabama and preview their game at Arkansas.

Opening statement…

“Prayers for Gary Pinkel. I know that we got to play him with his illness. Hopefully, he has many years to enjoy family life and that stuff beyond the game of football. He’s done a lot, and when you look at a place like Missouri, people look and try to build programs like theirs. That’s one that we’ve looked to here of how to do that and how to duplicate that. So our prayers are with him and his family as they move on to the next stage of their life.”

“We’ve got, obviously, a tough opponent this week. They’re one of the hotter teams, I think, in the SEC and maybe in the nation. They’ve won four games in a row putting up huge offensive numbers. They’re very, very stout defensively. They’re a well-coached, sound football team. They play hard. They have a lot of talented players out there on the field at different positions. They have a senior quarterback (Brandon Allen) who is an excellent player. He gets the ball to their different playmakers. They have one of the top, if not best, tight ends (Hunter Henry) in America. We know what he can do to create mismatches. They also have the active career rushing leader (Alex Collins) in the SEC. He leads the SEC in 100-yard rushing games. So we’ve seen some pretty good backs, but he’s another special one. So this week will be a huge challenge for us and our team to go out there and find a way to win.”

On differences between Arkansas earlier this season and now…

“I think they have better confidence in scoring points offensively. I think that that’s the biggest difference. They’re going to control the ball. They’re going to put pressure on you to execute very highly on offense. They play really sound defense. They don’t give up the big play. They make you work for everything since they’re good tacklers. They’re physical up front. One thing we’ve seen is that their offense is more explosive with putting points up on the board. All of a sudden, they get some points and grab the lead, and it’s just tough to comeback because they control the clock. They control the tempo of the game.”

On game planning for Arkansas…

“We look at everything. Honestly, they’re just playing with more confidence. If you look earlier in the season, they had some tight losses. They turned that around and found a way to win those close games, including two overtime wins. So when that stuff starts happening, you just build more confidence and momentum. To be honest, I don’t see them schematically, I don’t see them really doing anything different than they were doing earlier in the year. I just see them executing and making more plays.”

On the benefit of playing two similar offenses back to back…

“I don’t know if there is any. But both offenses are very different. They have their system and they run it very, very well. It’s a physical game. Personnel-wise, they are going to put big guys on the field. They’re going to use multiple tight ends instead of putting a bunch of wide receivers on the field, but I’m not sure there is an advantage or disadvantage to it.”

On the challenge of Arkansas’ size on the offensive line…

“We’ve got to be stout. We have got to be physical. They move people and we can’t get moved. You’re just fighting for that territory right there. It’s that simple, and you have to be physical and stout. They’re using big human beings to try to move you.”

On the progression of defensive lineman Will Coleman…

“He’s growing and he’s progressing. He’s trying to understand the system and get used to the speed. He’s a first year player for us. We’ve always seen big games out of our players in their first year. We’ve seen his comfort in the system and also out there on the field playing.”

On the health of wide receiver De’Runnya Wilson…

“He’s going to be fine. We’ll see how he is this week. I don’t think we’ll know until later this week what his status will be for the game. It’s not a threatening injury. You see it all the time, and it’s scary for everyone. It’s scary for players with head and neck injuries. It’s scary for the players and for the people involved. There’s so much caution that has to be involved that sometimes it’s scarier than it really is. [Wilson] is going to be fine. It’s nothing that’s going to be lasting for him.”

On Arkansas’ pass rush…

“I don’t see them doing anything differently. They’re just executing much, much better and playing with a lot of confidence. Confidence goes a long way. It allows you to go out there and execute better.”

On motivating players late in the season…

“We have to tweak our practices around. I mean, our guys love to play the game, so we don’t really have to worry about firing them up to play the game. Managing health and preparation are the two big things. We gave the guys today off. We’ll mix and match between practices. At this time of the year, we lean more to Sunday practices where we come in, stretch and get a lift in. We look at rep counts after the game. Sunday night practice is kind of a review and a refresher for guys who didn’t get a lot of reps. Then they get a little bit more time off on Monday, but then we have to be careful with practice length on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday because we don’t get much practice time for the game then. The tradeoff for that is to say that our guys got a bunch of reps during the course of the season. It’s just that balance of making sure that they’re ready to play the game. I don’t worry that much about the motivation because our guys love to play football. And if they don’t, we probably notice that back in September. If we always have to motivate you to go play football, we notice that pretty early. Those types of guys are usually non-factors within the program.”

On MSU traveling to Fayetteville for the first time since 2003…

“I’ve been there. It’s a neat town. I’ve been there recruiting. I know that NWA airport, Northwest Arkansas. What’s weird is that the airport is out in the middle of nowhere, and then you have to go into town. We’ve played out there before, or, at least, I have. I think for our players it is kind of new, especially when you’re playing an SEC West team that you play all the time. We talked about it before the Missouri game. None of our guys had ever been to Missouri before. I think it’s going to become that way with the East teams a lot more, where those almost have a non-conference feel because most guys will only ever play in that stadium once during their whole career. For the young guys, I don’t think that they’ll notice any difference because they haven’t been to Arkansas, either Little Rock or Fayetteville, but for older guys, I do think it will be a little different since they’re in a new stadium for the first time.”

On road success this year…

“I don’t know. To be honest with you, if you prepare for the game and go play well, you’re going to have an opportunity to win. If you don’t play well, you aren’t. I don’t care if you’re on the road or in the parking lot. It’s about execution and following the plan to win. If you do those things, you have an opportunity to win. I think that’s a much larger factor than where we’re playing.”

On redshirt freshman safety Brandon Bryant’s recent success…

“If you watch him, he’s in position. He understands what’s going on. He can look at the route combinations. He’s able to see the ball and go play it. As you get experience, you learn how to do what you’re supposed to within the offense that you’re facing. The more you play, the more experience that you get, and then all of a sudden you start making more plays.”

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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