We had a wide-ranging chat with Mississippi State head football coach Dan Mullen this afternoon at his weekly press conference. One of those topics was facing off against that strong Arkansas receiving corps on Saturday (2:30 p.m., CBS), something I'll be writing about at length for Friday's Daily Journal.
The No. 6-ranked Razorbacks have the SEC's top-rated passing game thanks in large part to guys like Jarius Wright and Joe Adams.
"You can stop them, and stop them, and stop them, and stop them, but they have quick-strike capability where all of a sudden – you've stopped them for 45 consecutive plays, then boom boom boom, they hit three long touchdown passes," Mullen said.
MSU will be trying to defend that passing game without the services of sophomore safety Nickoe Whitley, who Mullen said today is out for the season after suffering a ruptured Achilles' tendon in his left foot in Saturday's loss to Alabama. I'll have defensive coordinator Chris Wilson's thoughts on that in tomorrow's paper.
As for quarterback Chris Relf (concussion), Mullen said, "I doubt he'll practice today, but he'll be day-to-day throughout the week."
OK, more thoughts from Mullen, then back to transcribing.
• Will linebacker Brandon Maye, who was suspended for the Bama game, play this week? "He'll practice with the team today. As the week goes on, we'll make a decision about the game."
• On the Arkansas defense: "Defensively they give you a ton of challenges, one of the more complex blitz teams. They'll blitz you from all over the field, in every direction."
• On kicker Derek DePasquale's field goal struggles: "He makes them in warmups, makes them in practice. In the beginning of the season he was missing them all in practice but making them in the games a lot. There's a rhythm involved in that. Kicking field goals is a skill. It's not an effort-based thing. You look and you say, OK, you can't say, let's go harder, because we have to fix the skill of kicking the field goal. It's not something that effort fixes, it's skill fixes."
• On whether beating an SEC West power like Arkansas gives players a psychological boost: "Psychologically to beat a top 10 team, that always helps. That helps on Saturday night. On Sunday morning, you turn on another film and you have to get back to work for the next game."
• Can Tyler Russell become what Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson is now? "Tyler Russell is the same way. With all the accolades he had coming in within the state of Mississippi out of high school, he came in and did nothing but worked hard. When he has had his opportunities, he's taken advantage of it."
• Mullen was asked about the Penn State scandal. His father graduated from there. "It is a real tragedy for everything in every way. It's tragedy with how many lives it has ruined. I get to talk to my dad and he feels like he's part of it and here's a guy that graduated in 1966, but as a Penn State alum, it tarnishes him. Ninety-nine-point-nine-nine-nine percent of their undergraduates, professors and alumni had no idea and it's tragic for all of them that they've been brought down. It's just a really sad, sad story that's way outside of sports. It's a shame a lot of the great sports people have been brought down and their careers tarnished because of the actions that have occurred."