MSU O-line gets in tune for big test

By Brad Locke | NEMS Daily Journal

STARKVILLE – Mississippi State coaches weren’t overly excited or overly concerned about the offensive line play in Saturday’s 55-17 win over UT Martin. They do know it needs to pick up this week when No. 4 Alabama pays a visit.
Head coach Dan Mullen said the offensive line played “fairly well,” but position coach John Hevesy will be feasting on the game film.
“The one thing is the opportunity I get to grade them a little harder,” Hevesy said, “just to nitpick a little more than you should. Because you should be a little better than they are.”
MSU’s offensive line allowed no sacks and opened some holes to aid a 288-yard rushing effort. Hevesy said three or four linemen graded out as champions – the weekly standard each player tries to achieve.
After some early-season injuries, the Bulldogs have started to find cohesion up front. They’ve given up no sacks the last two games and only 16 on the year, fourth fewest in the SEC, and they aren’t being shuffled around any more.
“They’ve all kind of consistently gotten better,” Hevesy said. “To say one of them has stepped up as a shining light for the rest of them, I wouldn’t say that. The good thing is all five of them have got better each week and corrected mistakes and corrected things that they made from the week before.”
Nutt firing ‘a shame’
Dan Mullen is 2-0 against Houston Nutt, his 41-24 win over Ole Miss in the 2009 Egg Bowl marking the begin of the Rebels’ recent decline. Counting that game, Ole Miss has lost 14 of its last 15 SEC contests.
Nutt was fired Monday, but Mullen struck a somber tone when speaking about a coach with whom he’s traded more than one barb the last couple of years.
“That’s always a shame in this profession,” Mullen said. “When you live in this (coaching) world, you have a very different perspective of how that affects not just the head coach, but an awful lot of assistant coaches, their families and their livelihoods of how hard that can be on a family.”
Nutt will finish out the season, and Mullen doesn’t expect that situation to affect the Egg Bowl from MSU’s perspective.
“It doesn’t affect my dynamic on it at all. Word out of there last year and the year before, they were pretty focused on that game as well. So I imagine it’ll be just as passionate as it always is.”
Off the mark
Derek DePasquale, who entered this season as the school’s most accurate field goal kicker ever (20 of 24), has hit his first real slump. The senior has missed four of his last five attempts, including a 38-yarder against UT Martin.
He’s 9 of 14 on the season.
“In those guys, kickers, it’s a skill more than a effort-based thing,” Mullen said. “If you try harder, you’ll get better in a lot of things, but I don’t know if that’s always the case in kicking the football. It’s just getting that rhythm down and timing down and once you do, you tend to get on long streaks.”
Hughes hurt
Backup linebacker Chris Hughes suffered a strained groin against UT Martin, and Mullen said, “We’ll see how he does this week at practice.” Hughes made his first tackle and first fumble recovery of the season on Saturday.
brad.locke@journalinc.com