By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
Dan Mullen learned long ago to take no games for granted.
Ten years ago, when the Mississippi State head coach was an assistant at Bowling Green, the ranked Falcons lost at Northern Illinois.
“I’d never seen a lot of crowd noise, I’d never seen a large crowd there before,” Mullen said at Monday’s press conference. “They sold it out and handed Thunderstix out to everybody in the crowd, and it was deafening, and we had about six false starts because we didn’t practice with the crowd noise all week.
“We got caught off guard, and I’ll make sure that never happens to us again.”
It’s a lesson he’ll apply this weekend when Mississippi State (2-0) visits Troy (1-1), a Sun Belt Conference team. The Bulldogs are coming off a big 28-10 win over Auburn in their SEC opener, and so the challenge for coaches this week will be to make sure their players are just as focused this week as last.
Offensive coordinator Les Koenning doesn’t seem too concerned with how the players will respond.
“This group’s kind of unique,” he said. “When you watch them, they’re always pushing themselves, they’re pushing each other. And that’s when you win.”
Under Mullen, MSU has done well when facing a non-SEC opponent following an SEC win. In those scenarios, the Bulldogs are 5-0.
A glance at the defensive stat sheet might raise an eyebrow: Of MSU’s four sacks and 12 tackles-for-loss this season, only one of each has come from a starting defensive lineman – Denico Autry.
That means an assortment of defenders are making plays behind the line of scrimmage, from safety Corey Broomfield to backup tackle Devin Jones to linebacker Matt Wells.
That’s a good sign to defensive coordinator Chris Wilson.
“It’s kind of what you want; you want to be multiple,” Wilson said. “You want to be able to attack people from every angle. Obviously you want to have a better first-down pass rush, and that’s one of the things that we’re really going to emphasize this week.”
Sticking with Bell
Freshman kicker Devon Bell has missed all three of his field goal attempts this season, including a 36-yarder and 43-yarder versus Auburn. But Mullen is sticking with him.
“I still have a lot of confidence in Devon Bell, and I think one of things that allows me to have confidence in him is when you look at how he kicks his extra points, how he kicks his kickoffs – that was not a guy that was lacking in any confidence.”
Mullen said tight end Brandon Hill, who has three catches for 33 yards, is doubtful this week with a sprained ankle. … Freshman defensive back Xavier Grindle is out for the year with a torn ACL.
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