Bulldog Game Notebook

P.J. Jones was pretty blunt about the value of this week's open date. "My body is so messed-up, I need a break. I think we all do."

The defensive tackle wasn't exaggerating about the state of Mississippi State health following their 21-20 victory over Bowling Green. This is a Bulldog team which has been beaten-up by the first half of the season. The list of season-ending injuries added another, it appears, and in the case of Ferlando Bohanna it was an incredibly frustrating finish. The junior linebacker hadn't played all season after an August practice concussion.

He returned to action at long last, on special teams Saturday…and was literally knocked out again, apparently in the second quarter. "I think they said he's going to be done now, probably for his career but at least for this season," said Mullen. Bohanna will be checked further of course and could get a better evaluation later.

The defense was down two starters, DE Preston Smith and CB Jamerson Love (his second time this season) with unspecified injuries. State tried adjusting by giving DT Kaleb Eulls his old job at end back, with mixed results at best. Still a steady rotation of the front kept everyone just fresh enough to keep bringing pressure on the crucial fourth-quarter series that ended on fourth down incompletions.

The offense was short just one starter, LT Blaine Clausell who hurt a leg last week against LSU. But when practice week for Bowling Green began it was a worse story. "We had six starters out on the offensive line that had started games," said Mullen. The math was a bit creative as coach was counting graduate assistant and former guard Tobias Smith, who is eligible but has stuck to coaching this season so far. Mullen also counted RG Justin Malone who was lost on opening day.

But the coach was correct in that LG Gabe Malone, new RG Ben Beckwith, RT Charles Siddoway and Clausell were ruled out of Monday and to an extent all week. Clausell did not play at all as it turned out. "The rest of the guys kind of limped through the game," Mullen said. And all seemed unscathed fortunately.

"But we've got to find a way to make some corrections and figure out some combinations. It's a position we felt we had some depth coming into the season and obviously it's been devastated with injuries. We've kind of held it together but that depth we had going in is no longer depth. And when you start to get banged-up it shows."

HURRY UP: Using those gimpy bodies up-front was a factor in an unseen way too. After Bowling Green cut the second-quarter lead to 14-10, the Bulldog offense came out in an up-tempo approach not seen this season. It worked, too, as Dak Prescott directed a 75 yard drive capped by his own ten-yard touchdown keeper. Mullen liked how hurry-up worked that time.

"That was big for us, we might do a little bit more up-tempo stuff as we move forward," Mullen said. "But you also got to be careful. When you do that you start to lose time of possession, you start playing more snaps on defense. Especially like tonight, you'd love to do more. And you're looking at all the walking injured people that we have."

Which might signal that as soon as enough blockers are back to speed, the offense will try playing more often at greater speed?

BLOCKING BACK: Many a fan has wondered, or worse, why RB Ashton Shumpert's redshirt was removed in the second game of this freshman season. Never mind that in that game he gained 98 yards and scored two rushing touchdowns, quite possible the first true frosh ever to do so at State; records are not clear on the subject. In the following two games Shumpert had seven total touches, six against Troy, for a total of 30 yards. And his play against LSU was limited to kicking teams.

Saturday, Shumpert showed another very good reason why Mullen burned the redshirt season at a position not lacking for playmakers. Shumpert didn't blow-up the scoreboard or stats computer this game either. But he assuredly blew-up some Falcons. It was the freshman back's blocks that sprung Prescott for both his first-half touchdown runs.

"He's a big-time guy and he's just playing his role, whatever it is, carrying the ball, making a block," said Prescott. On the 75-yard scoring dash, "He made a good block and I cut in front of him. You can give him that touchdown, I mean that was a great block."

Mullen liked what the youngest ball-hauler did without the ball this game, which includes Shumpert's work on kickoff cover team. And his blocking is of more interest than fans might think; remember that the Bulldogs don't carry a fullback this season, but since opening game the offense has been using some multiple-back formations.

So having someone who has to be accounted for by defenders in case he carries, and then can clear-out room for the other runner is a big addition indeed. "Having that depth now at tailback allows us to do some stuff and put two tailbacks on the field," Mullen said. "I think that's something we could look at doing more of in the future with the five tailbacks we feel comfortable with, to get those guys on the field at the same time."

OVERDUE DEBUT: He's not a freshman, though by rights CB Will Redmond ought be. Still after serving one full season and five games of another of a NCAA suspension, for accepting benefits as a prospect, the official sophomore made his debut worth watching. Redmond had a tackle working on kick coverage, and was credited with deflecting BGSU's fourth-down pass on the last real chance to win this game.

"I'm sure he's pretty excited to be out there," Mullen said. "He's been waiting for a long time to go play. I give him a lot of credit, he's had to deal with an awful lot of stuff and an awful lot of pressure and he's handled it."

DECISIONS, DECISIONS: Before that Falcon do-or-die series, the Bulldogs had a chance to score some breathing room after driving to the eight-yard line with less than five minutes left. Normally a 4th-and-3 that close would bring in the placekick team. But PK Devon Bell has had a struggling sophomore season, and earlier in the same quarter bounced a 44-yarder off the right post. It wasn't a big surprise then that Mullen didn't send Bell out for what normally would be a chip-shot field goal.

But neither did he call on alternate Evan Sobiesk for a 25-or-so-yard try. Instead after a timeout the offense stayed on the field, and Prescott tried to get the three yards on the right end behind pulling LG Gabe Jackson and company. From field-level it seemed he might have made it on second-effort, but the sideline official began running in a step or so farther back than should have been. Measurement showed State short.

"I wanted to score, I wanted to put the ball in Dak's hands," Mullen said. "I thought he was running the ball pretty well and figured that was a good opportunity to finish out the game. It didn't go exactly as I planned, but that was our decision."

Before BGSU got off a play officials came over to Mullen who was appealing for review. The call was upheld, but State did not get docked a timeout either. Mullen clarified that when he was challenging, the referee also got a signal from the replay booth. "It got buzzed at the same time I challenged." State's upstairs coaches saw Prescott make the mark, while the TV replay wasn't so clear…though "When they showed it on the jumbotron, it was pretty obvious," said Mullen.

In the end it didn't matter. Still Mullen knew what sort of second-guessing the fourth-down call would mean. In fact, he said on State's last possession when the obvious goal was burn as much clock as possible, the coach had other notions.

"You know me, I wanted to take a shot right there at the end." Prescott did throw the ball to the end zone after all but without real chance of a completion…or an interception either. The Falcons also had no timeouts left for a couple of late heaves. But, taking a shot then and there?

"And you guys would have been holy cow, you went for it on fourth-and-four AND you threw the ball, you dummy!" Mullen grinned. "Unless we hit it, then you would have said he's pretty smart…" Mullen paused. "Then they (BGSU) would have gone and scored and gone for two and I would have been dumb again!"

PERKING UP: It wasn't his longest carry. Nor was it one likely to be replayed, the way his one-yard leap over both a MSU and a BGSU lineman for a touchdown will. But LaDarius Perkins' most important rush all evening came in the fourth quarter, just after State had stopped the Falcons on their second fourth-down attempt.

Perkins broke off a 11-yarder through traffic for first down, which meant BGSU had no choice but use all three of their timeouts to get the ball back at all. Which they eventually did but with just three seconds. Take away Perkins' first-down scoot to move the chains and who knows?

"That was a key, that was a real big key to the game," Perkins said. "I found a little hole, the o-line did a great job of blocking, I was trying to get a first down and try to run the clock out."

MIXED SIGNALS? That Mississippi State did not use a veteran placekicker in what, for a SEC program, should have been a near-automatic three points signaled much about this situation. Bell is 5-of-10 for the season and while he's shown lots of leg the accuracy has been lacking. This topic is bound to be discussed before the season resumes against Kentucky on the 24th.

Yet Mullen might have sent that sort of signal another way, much earlier. Bell was sent in to kick the first of State's two punts in the game. And he did it well too, dropping a 41-yarder at the four-yard line. It was his first college punt, and made one wonder if Bell was being given an opportunity to try something else that would boost his kicking confidence. He's been a reliable kickoff man with 15 touchbacks and half-as-many more kicks into the end zone that were returned.

Senior P Baker Swedenburg didn't go unused though. Two games ago he never had to kick at all, and last week he only punted once against LSU. He came out once this game as well and punted for 41 yards, aided by a late bounce.

MSU-ELLANEOUS NOTES: Senior OG Gabe Jackson made his 45th-straight start, the most of any under Dan Mullen at State. He surpassed the 44 starts by Johnthan Banks in 2009-12…OT Justin Senior made his first career start, at left tackle in place of the injured Blaine Clausell…DT Kaleb Eulls moved back to his previous position of defensive end this game and started in place of Preston Smith…Speaking of Banks, a video of the Dog-turned-Tampa Bay Buc was shown between the third and fourth quarters. This is the spot where Diamond Dog relief pitcher Jonathan Holder has been shown in football gear saying it's time to close it out. Banks said "Let's take this one to the house," a reference to his program record-tying career of interceptions and pick-sixes…QB Tyler Russell moved up to third in career completions, now with 368 as he surpassed Derrick Taite's 356. Russell set the career touchdown pass record last week and has 39 now…CB Justin Cox and OT Justin Senior made their first career starts…Mississippi State won its 51st Homecoming game, and an 11th-straight home game against non-conference competition.


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