Head Coach Dan Mullen faced limitless criticism following his team's play on Saturday and he came out Monday taking full responsibility. Now with an injured starting quarterback, many more questions are to be answered in the coming weeks.
"It starts with us as coaches making the right adjustments in the course of the game and putting our players in position to make plays," Mullen said. "As we go and have success, the next play is always the most important play. We have to finish every drive, every game and finish every play. All of that kind of falls on me and making sure, as a whole, that we make those adjustments."
Mullen talked about a lot of the problems offensively falling on his shoulders as the team works to correct those mistakes in week two. While he takes full responsibility, he said the accountability needs to be there for everyone to improve and finish.
"I'm very disappointed in myself. I'm disappointed in the situations that we put ourselves in. We watched it as a whole team today, finish is going to be a big thing for us. You look at overall finish in everything; we had a couple of opportunities for some big plays where we didn't finish the play. We didn't finish drives. We had some big plays and moved the ball well early in the game."
Mullen also talked at length about the team's job defensively against J.W. Walsh and OSU when they began to find effectiveness in the zone read. He was happy with what the defense did against the read but noticed trouble when the opposing offense got in two tight end sets. The latter was something that didn't show up on film and was unleashed on the Bulldogs Saturday.
"We didn't do a great job adjusting to it with coaches fast enough and then getting it to the players and translating the adjustment on the field. All of the zone read stuff that they had run before I thought that we defended really well. The benefit now is that we're going to see teams that run that similar set and we actually have clips of us defending it."
Speaking of things not seen a year ago, the Bulldogs had to throw a few freshmen into the fire early as four true frosh played in the first game and meaningful snaps at that. Mullen sees them making big strides in the next two to three weeks, but was impressed with their opening act.
"I thought they handled themselves really well on the field. That's a big first step. A lot of times you try to script something really easy for a true freshman or you hope they get it in the fourth quarter. Just about every one of those guys were playing the whole game. They got their first reps of their career in meaningful reps. Now they've been through game week, they've got to understand what it is to go and prepare and then execute it on the field at the speed at which it happens."
Moving on from their opening loss, Mullen is excited about getting back home and starting the 2013 home slate against home-state foe, Alcorn State. He's been forward thinking since coming to MSU about playing more in-state teams as he's scheduled an out-of-conference Mississippi team in each of his five years at MSU.
"The fact that it's an in-state battle makes it a lot of fun. For a lot of their kids, this is their Super Bowl. Talking about playing with a chip on your shoulder, I know our guys are going to be playing with one on theirs. I know that they're not pleased with our overall performance. They're pleased with a lot of things we did last week but not overall. It should be a neat game. With the in-state games, a lot of people are coming to those games. There's guys that played football with each other and against each other growing up. That in-state aspect of the rivalry makes it a real big deal."
"We're excited for the home opener this week. It's great to get back and play at home. There's such an exciting feel on campus. In my Friday routine, I usually get up and jog on campus and you feel that energy and excitement on campus so I'm really excited about that."
Of course, there was lots of coach speak from Mullen about his opponent but Alcorn put 63 points on the board in week one. Regardless of who was played, the 63 points is something to take notice of and MSU did have fits with the Braves in 2010 during the midst of a big winning streak.
"Obviously, it'll be a tough opponent with Alcorn State; they have the guts and confidence. Last week they had a huge win over Edward Waters. They put up a lot of points and had good defense. They're always going to have a lot of great athletes, we played them a couple of years ago and they battled us with a lot of great athletes on the field. They made a bunch of really tough plays."
Mississippi State was hit hard on Saturday with injuries and those were to players that the Bulldogs simply didn't need injured. Quarterback Tyler Russell went down in the third quarter with a concussion and Mullen called his status doubtful but said they would monitor it and see where his status is at game time. He will not be practicing this week per Mullen and backup Dak Prescott now has the quarterback position to himself if Russell cannot go.
"It's a great opportunity for (Prescott) and looking at it today, it's probably going to be his first start of his career," Mullen said. "What I do like is I don't think we skipped a beat during the game Saturday. Stepping into the huddle, that confidence and leadership he brings, there wasn't a panic in the coaches or the players on the field. That, to me, shows a lot of how Dak has performed and what he showed in training camp. He has a lot of trust in his teammates."
Starting safety Jay Hughes is lost for the season for MSU with a torn Achilles that happened on just the second possession of the ball game. It's what Mullen called "a huge loss, not just as a player but as a leader of the defense," and called him a "face of the program type of guy".
Linebacker Ferlando Bohanna missed the opening game with a concussion and Mullen said he's still doubtful as well. In addition, starting right guard Justin Malone is doubtful for Saturday after going down in the second half Saturday. A couple of Bulldogs did at least have good news after being injured on Saturday with starting corner Jamerson Love listed as questionable and Matthew Wells now "fine to go".