Practice Report: Bulldogs Battle Cold

Next game: vs. No. 13 Arkansas (8-2, 4-2), Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN (Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge and Holly Rowe)

Brandon Heavens was visibly shaking following MSU’s practice this evening. That’s because it was, well, cold. Mid-40s, brisk winds. But, might as well get used to it with more night kickoffs looming.

“We know it’s going to be pretty cold for the rest of the season, so we might as well practice in it and get used to it,” said Heavens, a sophomore receiver.

Even coach Dan Mullen, who reminded us he’s from New Hampshire, was sporting a pair of gloves. “I’m a Southerner now,” he said with a grin. “My blood’s thinned up.”

On to more relevant matters, Mullen said MSU is getting back into what he hopes is a more normal game week routine.

“We got into a very comfortable routine and great routine on the winning streak,” said Mullen, whose Bulldogs had a six-game streak snapped at Alabama last week. “Had a bunch of other things happen to get us out of that routine, and now we’re just trying to get back in our focus with first down, play-action mix today, our regular Tuesday practice, full pads, good hitting, getting after each other and getting ready for the game.”

A couple of areas of concern last week were tackling and offensive line play. On the tackling: “We didn’t change our routine. We have a routine that’s been very successful for us. We just get out here, get after them, get back into that mindset of what we need to do to win.”

The offensive line, he said, should be OK because of the senior leadership there. “They don’t need a lot of motivating those guys. They know. They’ve played a lot of football, they know what they’re doing.”

Other post-practice thoughts from Mullen.

• On QB Chris Relf‘s missed opportunities vs. Alabama: “You look, we went back and looked, he was 8 of 16 with four drops, two open receivers that he missed. There were a lot of opportunities there, and for the receivers, everybody. We got a chance to watch it, and you just see, winning games we’ve made those plays.”

• Mullen implied that reserve safety Zach Smith (ankle) didn’t practice today. When asked about whether Smith, a senior, would play this week in his final home game, Mullen said, “You can joke with him, but he doesn’t think it’s funny to even joke with him. You can joke with him, but he doesn’t think it’s funny to even joke with him. It was like, ‘Hey, how come I’m not listed as No. 1 on the punt team today?’ I said, ‘Because you’re not practicing, but I’ll play you.'”

None of us genius reporters thought to follow up on that, but coaches have been fully expecting Smith to play.

• Trying to simulate Arkansas’ offense with the scout team is not easy. Brandon Hill is playing the role of tight end D.J. Williams. Who’s playing Ryan Mallett, the big quarterback?

Dylan Favre.

“Mallett’s 6-7, and Favre’s listed, generously listed at – what do we list him at?” (5-11, coach.) “… that’s a generous listing at 5-11. He can throw it, though.”

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