Tuesday with Mullen

Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen held his weekly press conference Tuesday to discuss the Bulldogs’ season opening loss to South Alabama and preview the SEC opener against South Carolina.

Opening Statement

“Obviously [we have] a big game this week. When you kick off conference play, it’s critical for us to always get that front foot conference game. A lot of the time it will kind of dictate how the rest of the conference season goes — not always, but a lot. It’s a big game for us, obviously playing a team with a new coaching staff, they have the big advantage of actually opening on a Thursday night, which I know is a huge advantage for a lot of teams. They have a little extra time to prepare for us, a little extra time to get healthy, get well, after training camp and the first game so that’ll be a challenge. Especially with a new staff, a whole new staff in, you’ve only got one game on these guys as a staff and what they’re doing. They’ve got a good football team, and they’re playing a two-quarterback system with the young freshman kid, a young dynamic player. They can run, hurt you different ways and the older kid really came in threw the ball well. They’ve got some explosive wide receivers, an excellent tailback. On the defensive side of the ball they’ve got some experience, guys up front who can rush the passer, be physical at the point of attack and some veteran linebackers that are at the next level, so it’s going to be a big challenge for our guys and we’ve got to be ready to go play at a very high level come Saturday.”

On South Carolina…

“[We] have limited film on what they do, and being a defensive coach Will (Muschamp)‘s  always done a great job. Their guys play hard with a lot of energy, very very sound in what they do and we expect them to come after us. I think being at Auburn last year, he came after us last year a lot, so we expect them to bring a lot of pressure.”

On practice after the South Alabama game…

“We had a good practice yesterday, a good physical practice. We worked hard, got after it, and went back to work.”

On what he expects from the team against South Carolina…

“[I expect a] team that goes out and plays hard and plays with relentless effort, passion for the game; the same thing I want to see every Saturday from our guys. I want to see 11 guys on the field going as hard as they can every single snap, with the support of all the guys on the sideline ready for their opportunity to get out on the field.”

On issues during South Alabama game…

“A couple of issues that we had were critical errors. I thought overall we played well; if you look throughout most of the game, a solid performance, then several critical errors at key moments in the game, not just from the offensive line, several positions. If you look at grades, guys actually graded pretty well, did a good job, and then there would be a glaring critical error at a key moment of the game.”

On linebacker Leo Lewis…

“He made some plays. It’s good to see him get some play action. As a young player he has to learn the standard of play and how to play hard every single snap. It was good to see him out there and make plays in a live game situation.”

On potential starter change against South Carolina…

“Everybody competes every single week for us. We’ll see how everybody does in practice this week.”

On running back participation in first game…

“I think each guy got some carries and got some work out of the backfield, got different touches. There’s only one ball. There’s a lot of people who would like it into their hands, so we’ll keep working as hard as we can to get as many people touches as we can.”

On injuries…

“We expect everybody, nobody missing any time after last week’s game”

On defensive end A.J. Jefferson…

“He’s a team captain for us and he’s worked hard. You expect that. He’s a fifth-year senior. You expect that out of guys, to come in and perform their senior year, perform their best. He’s responsible now to go set that standard, whether it’s been Ryan Brown or Preston Smith or Josh Boyd, or Fletcher Cox, or Pernell McPhee. For all those guys on the defensive line, he’s expected as a veteran guy in that unit to set that standard extremely high, and make sure the young players live up to it. You have to do it in every aspect. It’s got to be done in practice, but he’s probably our most productive defensive lineman in practice. He makes the most plays in practice.”

On punter Logan Cooke…

“Logan did ok, solid. You got the one punt tipped and that was all on him on get-off time. I think he’s a guy that we have a lot of confidence in. He found out he was playing about three minutes before he had to go kick the ball, in a big, big game. He’s very comfortable with game transition, so I don’t think that some of the nerves and stuff that come sometimes with younger guys affect him. He’s become kind of an older guy now, but only just starting his third season here on campus. He’s a guy that plays with confidence when it comes to game time.”

On South Carolina QB Perry Orth…

“You can see as a veteran player, despite his first year in the system, he understands what they’re trying to do. He throws the ball well and is a very willing runner. For me, as far as quarterbacks, I like guys who are willing runners. Dak Prescott was a willing runner, maybe not a dynamic runner, but somebody that’s willing to run and get tough yards and do what you need to do in the system. So I think he has experience, understands their system, what they’re trying to do, and can really execute their offense.”

On team mistakes against South Alabama and consistency

“There are issues everywhere that we’ve got to get fixed. Defensively, we had three three-and-outs, created 12 negative yardage plays, and then a bunch of zero yardage gain plays, so over a third of their plays were zero or negative yards. The issue is we gave up 12 explosive plays. It’s the consistency of performance. Not “can we do it?” We can do it, because we’ve shown that we can do it. We have to do it every single snap of the game and have a consistent performance.”

On the difference between MSU’s first and second half performances…

“I think a little bit of our effort and execution really dropped in the second half, and the mental and physical toughness aspect of it is where it came from, which is something we always take a lot of pride in. You see most of our negative breakdown, whether it is a guy straying to the ball, whether it’s a major mental error or critical error that happened, or a major mistake and you break them down and they happen in games. There were very few of those plays in the first half and there were a much larger number of them in the second half.”

On freshman wide receiver Jamal Couch…

“I think he was helped by early departures of some other people, so there was an opportunity to be filled for him to go play. He worked hard. You could tell he was a guy who worked in the summer, which is one of the bigger challenges for freshmen to get on the field, not just their physical abilities, which he has some size and physical abilities, but how fast mentally you can pick things up. I think he did a good job picking things up mentally and putting himself in a position.”

On lack of turnovers…

“We’re going to take what teams give us. What I did see with the film is them playing way off down the field so it doesn’t make any sense if they’re standing way deep to sit there and throw the ball to one of their guys. I was pleased we didn’t turn the ball over.”

On lack of creating turnovers…

“Give credit to them, that’s their execution. They executed well. Their quarterback took care of the ball. You have to create turnovers but also the other team has to give it up too. To be honest with you, pretty clean game from both sides, not massive amounts of penalties. Obviously, we had several critical penalties at key moments of the game, and they’re mental penalties, but no turnovers. I think both teams executed well for the first game.”

On missed opportunities to make big plays…

“There were a couple and they resulted in critical errors, whether it was we hurt ourselves with a penalty that erased a couple of big plays or we missed a block or missed a protection. We had eight explosive plays, which is the minimum to me that you want. The goal is that you have to have at least eight explosive plays. We had eight. You’d like to have a lot more.”

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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  • boonhoggenbeck1

    Where’s the fire Dan..thx



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