Mullen More Upbeat After Game Review

Generally Coach Dan Mullen does his day-after discussion of the game on Sundays. But with the Bulldogs coming off a Thursday contest, and headed for a brief weekend break, Mullen had a little Friday afternoon time to spare. He used it for a sit-down with media to go over the whys and why-nots of Mississippi State's loss to Auburn.

The Bulldogs were not entirely off for Friday, now. They reported for an afternoon review of the game, then headed down to the weightroom where Coach Matt Balis had an in-season workout awaiting. But that's all being asked of Mississippi State players until Monday when preparations for the LSU road trip begin. Mullen himself and his aides were all heading out to watch high school and junior college games beginning this evening.

This mini-pause in the early season comes at a prime time, Mullen thinks. "We'll give them the weekend off. I want them to take a breather from it all. We've been going through training camp, ready for game one, a short week that was a grind. They're going to get their breather, and get ready to go."

And, presumably, go on to better outcomes than Thursday's 17-14 loss in the first game of the 2010 SEC season. Mullen went over that game and other items, as follows:

Q: You expected a report today on Marcus Green?
"I haven't heard yet on him. They're doing a MRI to make sure it's nothing, but they feel he should be fine for next week. But I haven't heard back from the MRI yet. We're not practicing until Monday so we'll know what the deal is going to be."

Q: Having reviewed the game did anything surprise you?
"It probably looked better than I thought it was going to look. In the SEC you have to go win the game, you have to take the game, nothing is ever going to get handed to you in this league. And there were opportunities, the game was there to be taken on both sides. They went and grabbed it and we didn't. There were plenty of opportunities last night, it showed on film. Every single person, every coach that coached, everybody that played in that game could take responsibility that at some point they let something slip that if we made the play, on that specific play, it might have turned the tide of the game. From the beginning to the end of the game you can find each one guy on each play that let something slip."

Q: Did they play defensively in the second half as well as they could?
"No, no. We let some things slip. We punt in that last situation to try to pin them deep, next thing we're blocking an emergency field goal to try to hold on. We go three-and-out there and get the ball at midfield with five minutes left and two timeouts, running our base offense with a chance to go win the game. So that slipped."

"And there were plays to make in that drive, and we didn't. We talk about us taking care of ourselves. If everybody does their job on every play we wouldn't have had the issues we had last night. What it was, was ten guys doing their job, one guy not. And that one guy was different on every play."

Q: You talked last night you expected maybe 10% perfect plays, what did it end up being?
"It was low 20s. Actually there was some stuff on there that was better than I thought it would be. One of the interesting stats in the game last night when you looked at both offenses; in the first half we ran 21 plays, they ran 24. If that would have kept up in the second half we would have run 42 plays and they would have run 48. That's normally half a game for each of us. It was interesting, some of the mistakes, some of the opportunities, they seized on some of those."

"Both teams turned it over twice: they scored ten points off turnovers, we scored seven. That three points was the difference. I mean, it was right there for the taking and we didn't take it."

Q: What were some of the good things you saw?
"Just some of the execution. I thought we blocked decently in the perimeter with the receivers at times. They got open. Some of the communication and the decisions the quarterbacks were making. Defensively it looked cleaner than I thought it was going to look."

"So all of that, there were a lot of positive things that I like to see that shows our program is going in the right direction, the team is going in the right direction, the players are executing at a higher level than I thought they were on the sidelines. What we have to do is be cleaner in practice."

Q: Besides Chris Relf running the ball what did you think of the running game?
"I'd like to get our tailbacks the ball a little more. But we had nine different guys catch a pass, I think seven different guys carried the ball. Which is what we want to do, which is spread the ball around. I'd like to get our tailbacks a couple more carries. But we got our fullbacks involved, our quarterbacks involved in the running game, the receivers involved in the running game, the tailbacks. All of them are involved in the passing game, and that's one of we want to do. When nine guys catch a pass and seven guys run with the ball, we're spreading the ball around the way we want to do it."

Q: What did you see out of Patrick Hanrahan and what is the plan for him?
"I expect him and (Sylvester) Hemphill, those type of guys, to get the tough three and four yards when they run it and protect the football. They did that. (Hanrahan) got a nice seam on one play and hit it…and ran into the first guy he could find! That's what you expect those guys to do."

Q: You said last night you don't have two gameplans when Tyler Russell and Chris go on. On film do you see defenses with different gameplans?
It seems Tyler was getting blitzed more? "I didn't see them change their blitz scheme. I mean, our protection scheme broke down with both of them in there. And the pressures didn't really come from pressures, they came from us getting beat one-on-one on the offensive line against their d-linemen. It happened three or four times during the game but it happened to four different linemen. It wasn't one guy got beat, each guy got beat once. You can't do that. I'd almost rather they all got beat on one play; let's all mess it up on one play and be perfect the next fifty! That would be a better deal!"

Q: A lot of focus after the game was on Leon Berry and the last drive, did you remind him it wasn't all on him?
"Oh, certainly. We just finished watching the film as a team. I can promise you it certainly wasn't anything on one player. There were about 15 other opportunities for us to score."

"We ended up with I think it was 18 missed tackles, six dropped passes, 25 MAs (missed assignments). That's not how you win SEC football games. To be honest it should have come down to that. If we take care of the ball, maybe we're up 17-7 at halftime starting off with an opening drive the second half and now it's 24-7. Then it's a whole different story and doesn't come down to that one play."

"So I think a lot can be made of that. But Leon, the play before that ran an unbelievable route to beat man-coverage and missed the protection. Chris checked the protection and the line missed it. That's a bigger play to me than the drop, the missed protection was a bigger play. Leon won, it was clean. If he makes that catch we've still got about 13 yards to go in thirty seconds."

Q: What was the attitude of the guys when you met with them?
"They're all disappointed. There is nothing good about losing. We're in this to win football games, they're in it to win football games. There is nothing good about losing a football game, so they're pretty disappointed. We try as a staff to lay out exactly the reasons we lost, top to bottom why we lost, and what we have to do to fix it. You're not going to fix all these little mistakes next Saturday. You're going to fix it in your performance on Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday-Friday. The focus and the attention to detail in practice this week needs to be much sharper, much crisper. And the confidence level needs to be much better with all the receivers. We should never see a ball touch the ground, they should have that much confidence catching the ball. On blitzes we should all hit our exact gap, not be one guy out of a gap. Protection on pass rush, we should be ready to go block your man one-on-one."

Q: Had you seen dropped balls in practice, was that surprising?
"Yeah. Not to that extent. But when you have a young team sometimes it's tough, they lose that focus. A lot of young players are out there thinking OK, what's the coverage, what's the play, how is this going to be different this week. As you get more experience you see guys that are just so locked into catching the ball. That's where you have to get to."

"But a lot of those drops would have been first-down catches, I think almost every one of them would have been a first-down catch. That's six more first downs in the course of that game. That's a big, big difference now. You talk about your offense being on schedule and in rhythm, you're in a rhythm when you're executing on first down. That would have been six more opportunities for us to have first downs."

Q: What was your evaluation of the way the dropped balls were thrown, a lot of them didn't keep the receiver on his feet? "Yeah, but a lot of them are thrown that way on purpose. A lot of those were designed throws for that stuff. Some are lead, some are back-shoulder throws. And some are sprint-outs. Chad Bumphis dropped two on sprint-out. One he kept low, on the sideline, 3rd-and-2 Tyler put it in a nice place, low and away, where all you need to do is catch the ball and get a first down. And we missed that one."

Q: Is the team picking up on these things more and faster now than the first year?
"I hope so. I mean they're already performing at a better level than any time last year. The execution on certain things is better. So hopefully we continue to see that improvement. It's tough. There are a lot of young players still in that room. Go over to the receiver room where they're kind of feeling down today; there's a senior, then sophomore and freshmen. One senior. Almost every one of them is a new player since I've been here and I've only been here 19 months! So the growth and development of those kids is important."

Q: Is there anything you'd change about the offensive gameplan in general?
"No. I reviewed that. Because I do look at the plays calls on offense, I look at the play calls on defense. We have a plan that had a good chance to work. I didn't see anything different. I just saw a critical error here and there. So it was pretty good. I thought Chris did a good job, and we did a nice job in the two-minute situation that put ourselves in position to tie or win the game. In a lot of ways they did some good things, a lot of good things. Except for taking the win. It was there for the taking and we didn't grab it."

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