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October 7, 2013

Mullen Meeting His Former Team Saturday

Mississippi State felt like they were on the cusp of finally breaking in against a big-time program. In the matter of five minutes on the clock, that hope was completely gone as LSU ran away with the victory for the 14th-consecutive time. The players were deflated and Coach Dan Mullen was obviously disappointed in post game. Now, it's all about getting back to work and preparing for Bowling Green (5-1) on Saturday a game that the Bulldogs can't afford to overlook.

"We get everybody back out on the field today (to) get ready for a big homecoming game. Bowling Green, obviously is a tough team. They are 5-1 right now and have won pretty convincingly over some good football teams. They know how to play in SEC stadiums. They played Florida pretty close last year so their guys are used to doing that. It will be a difficult task.It's a very senior unit. If you look on the defensive side of the ball, everybody is a redshirt junior. So their youngest players are redshirt juniors, and have been in the program four years. It's a very, very experienced, veteran group.
"On the defensive side of the ball they give you a lot of different looks, a lot of different pressures and come at you in a lot of different directions. It is a very opportunistic defense and creates turnovers. They are a really good football team on that side of the ball.
"Offensively they have a lot of balance. They've got a quarterback who can make a lot of plays with his arm. He can throw the ball all over the place and keep plays alive. They also have a talented running back.
"They are a different type of receivers than we've seen with a lot of big receives. They are real tall guys who can create miss-match advantages. And they have a pretty good offensive line. They are close to 500 yards a game on offense so they're an explosive offense.
"When you match that with the experience on defense, you can see why they're 5-1 and probably the top team in the MAC this year. It will be a great challenge for us."

Mullen began his college coaching career with Bowling Green under Urban Meyer and most of his staff was with him at the school. Getting a chance to play against his former team is something that he looks forward to and he sees a lot of his success hinging from where he started at BGSU.

"That was my first full-time job," Mullen said of Bowling Green. "I learned an awful lot there. I've learned a lot here as the Head Coach, but everywhere you go you can learn a lot. I met my wife there, changed a lot about who I was and grew up a lot while I was there. I think just personally and football wise I grew up. It was a good time and good experience for me. You look at life, I think I was there 12 years ago, you ask where will you be 10 years from now? Within 10 years I was the Head Coach here. I will be honest; I didn't say I was going to be the Head Coach at Mississippi State. We did some good things, had some really good players and had some success. It helped a lot of people get to where they are today."

The common theme in all of the Bulldog losses this season has been not finishing games. A solid three quarters against Auburn and LSU wasn't enough to win those games and that has been something that they continue to try and find an answer for.

"Everything changes from every single week. An awful lot has improved since the first game against Oklahoma State. When you go back to the start of the season, you look at the missed assignments, we had more missed assignments in that game that now. The only other game was the Egg Bowl last year where he had close to that many missed assignments on offense from the first game of the season.
"We were down to about 18 total in the game in all three phases this last weekend. So fundamentally, we played much better. You look at this week's game and the missed tackles. I think we each had the same number of missed tackles. They had more negative-yard plays than we did, but they had more explosive plays than we had.
"There were a lot of big plays made in that game, both negative yards and positive yardage on Saturday."

MSU did have some big plays made by several players including two true freshmen that made a significant impact. Wide Receiver De'Runnya Wilson caught a 59-yard touchdown pass for his first score of his young career. Defensive tackle Chris Jones also made noise harassing the offensive guard and tackle in front of him all night on his way to his first sack and 3.0 tackles for loss.

"It was good to see those guys making plays. They're starting to grow. De'Runnya is starting to get better, doing a nice job of learning how to play the game. Chris obviously is a guy who has a lot of athletic potential. He's a very talented athlete, but you can still see he's really learning fundamentals and learning how to be a good every-down football player."

Another true freshman that has made plays this year is running back Ashton Shumpert. The talented runner saw his redshirt pulled in the second game of the season and he carried the load for the Bulldogs on his way to 98 yards on the ground. Since then, he's been mostly used in special teams but Mullen likes what he's done so far in the program.

"He's done a real good job for us," Mullen said of Shumpert. "He's our second-leading rusher for us. As a true freshman coming in, he's done a good job. For us in development of players, he's obviously been accelerated as a freshman getting on the field and learning how to be a back and how to do pass protections not just learning how to run. When you get into special teams, it's about learning the importance of your assignment, technique and how to be successful."

One player that has been around much longer than the three freshmen is Tyler Russell who made his way back to the field for the first time after missing three games to injury. The senior broke the school record for touchdowns in the first half throwing two on the day and had success when he was in the ball game. The first touchdown to Jameon Lewis was the most impressive of all as Russell started the drive with a sack before making his way down the field for six points.

"The touchdown pass was a great play. He changed it at the line of scrimmage with the protection and he saw the route with certain protection coming he wanted to change the play and get to something different. That just kind of shows his experience. Unfortunately he's been sacked a bunch during his career. If you stick around enough, getting sacked isn't going to affect him. When you've played as much as he has you take positive and negatives in stride. He's now the school's all-time leading touchdown passer. All those things come in stride with him. What you want is to take what's happened on that play and translate that into the next play."

Mullen was exceptionally pleased with how Russell ran the ball on the option on his opening drive carrying defenders a couple of more yards for the first down. Having his senior take the hit wasn't a worry for him.

"No, that was a great play," Mullen said. "Quarterbacks take more hits in the pocket than they do running the football. I imagine just as many guys are getting hurt sliding or trying to get down in the pocket as they do running. He can kind of be the aggressor and be the hammer not the nail."

MSU had some key players go down late in the ball game against LSU with cornerback Jamerson Love, right guard Ben Beckwith and left tackle Blaine Clausell all suffering injuries. The good news for Mullen and the team is that he said everyone is expected to be okay with no serious injuries from that group.

"We expect everybody to play this week. But we'll see. As the week goes on, there will be a lot of guys limited at practice. Nobody has been ruled out for the game on Saturday, or nobody new has been ruled-out for the game on Saturday."

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