Mullen Gives Scrimmage A Positive Review

After seven practice days the Bulldogs finally got to play on the real field. Against each other admittedly, and under conditions not yet spring-like. But the chance to do some serious hitting suited Mississippi State just fine…and the results suited their coach.

"Overall some good, clean football; and a lot we can teach off of," Coach Dan Mullen said.

Maybe the coaching staff won't evaluate everything quite so cleanly when the video is hashed and thrashed for a couple of days. And even Mullen noted several more penalties and mistakes than should have been the case. But for the Saturday moment, it was an upbeat bunch exiting Scott Field.

A number of first-teamers and others did not participate for various health situations. That didn't mean it was a day off as all were given re-hab running and stretching to fill the time. RB Josh Robinson (a tweaked hamstring last Saturday) covered a whole lot of ground on both sidelines and stadium steps. Also held out were DT Chris Jones (thumb) and OG Jocquell Johnson (unspecified) for practice injuries. DT Kaleb Eulls, DT P.J. Jones, S Jay Hughes, LB Ferlando Bohanna have been restricted all spring.

The offense, both of them, put up a fast touchdown in their opening turns. With ones-on-ones it took six snaps to cover 75 yards with QB Dak Prescott tossing a 38-yard scoring pass to TE Malcolm Johnson. The catch was made at the 20 with Johnson doing the rest of the work.

The #2 offense got to start at their own 40 yard line per the script, and needed just two snaps to score. After an incompletion, QB Damian Williams connected with slot WR Gabe Myles for a catch-and-run touchdown. From there the defenses gained control for four series, until the seventh which was another 1s-on-1s. Prescott found Johnson again for a 24-yard gainer to the one-yard line, and behind the ‘jumbo' line with an added tight end RB Nick Griffin dove through the middle.

Griffin would get a second touchdown on his next-to-last attempt of the day. After RB Ashton Shumpert gained 25 yards on a second-down rush to the 48-yard line, Griffin took the next handoff and broke through the left side for a 52-yard score.

The day's other rushing score was by walk-on Trey Braswell on one-yard drive against the third defense. But this scrimmage wasn't nearly so much about running the ball as throwing it around.

From his 27, Williams was able to get a throw over LB Zach Jackson at the other 30 with WR Fred Brown catching and going unchallenged the rest of the way for a 73-yard play. Almost all his passing gains came on those two big hitters. QB Nick Fitzgerald was able to bounce back late in his scrimmage and throw three touchdowns, including a roll-out to buy time before finding walk-on TE Lawrence Brown on the back line of the end zone.

The ball was distributed well with eight Bulldogs catching at least two balls, though tight ends had the big Dogs' share of business. On the whole though it was a better day for the top two defenses who for the most part controlled play in the full-field settings. Mullen counted ten three-and-outs for the top two units.

Special teams, weren't. The blustery conditions contributed to be sure, as even in warmups close kicks were a major challenge. During live play PK Evan Sobiesk missed field goals of 38 and 27 yards, and had a 40-yarder blocked with S Kivon Coman leading a crowd. PK Westin Graves only tried PATs and missed one of those. The lone three-pointer was made by an unlisted walk-on kicker.

With over half the allotted practices completed, Mississippi State's schedule gets lighter the next two weeks. There are three sessions planned for this week, exact days and times to be announced.

COACH DAN MULLEN: "We'll watch the film on it. I saw some really good things, I saw some things we've got to get fixed-up and cleaned up. You talk offensively, I saw guys making a bunch of plays, I saw some guys make some things happen. Also saw some opportunities for a couple of big hits that we didn't get, a couple of short-field opportunities that we didn't score on and you have to take advantage of those."

"Too many penalties, six false-starts on the offensive line; that's a little lack of mental focus there on the offensive side of the ball. But a lot of plusses. You've guys have all your unofficial stats, but I thought defensively the same type of deal. Some good and bad, made some good plays, had I think five three-and-outs for the ones, five three-and-outs for the twos. We gave up too many big plays right there, gave up a couple of penalties."

"That's what's great, I told the official I want to be strict out here, call it like you'd call a tight, tight game. So a lot of stuff right now we get away with in practice (in a game) you might not be able to get away with. So we've got get it taught now while we get out here. And I let guys get away with a lot more because I want to see them in adverse conditions. I mean, can you win when maybe they're not calling anything that day, or they're going to call it tight. A couple too many penalties that way for the defense, but again we made some plays."

"I'd like to see more turnovers, that's always a big deal for our defense, creating turnovers. In scrimmage situations you're always kind of happy or really sad, you know? You're happy the defense creates a bunch, or you're mad the offense turns it over. But overall some good, clean football; and a lot we can teach off of."

Dak Prescott and Malcolm Johnson had a connection working today? "Yeah, with what our defense was doing they were giving us some of that. But I thought the timing was pretty good between those two. You look, we have some pretty good corners; we got a look that maybe put them a little bit more on some islands and protect that middle of the field instead of protecting the corners a little bit. Then we've got to see who is going to win one-on-one on the outside at that point instead of trying to take advantage of the middle of the field."

What are your thoughts on Nick Griffin? "I'm really proud of him. Obviously Nick is as high-character a kid as we have on the team. A great student, does everything the right way. The football aspect has not always worked out the way he's wanted to with all the injuries that he's suffered. I still see hesitation but hopefully today maybe is going to continue to give him more and more confidence, to perform at the level we know he can go perform at."

Can you assess Prescott's play? "I was pretty happy. I was pleased overall. A couple of things, a couple of big mistakes. And what I view as a big mistake is a mistake we've already made in game situations, and cannot repeat. You're always going to make mistakes, but don't make them over and over again. But I think overall (he) did a great job, his leadership is good, he gets it going. I think he does a good job out here of understanding we're not going to put him in a position of make a lot of plays with his legs. And even though he's comfortable with that, I've got to do it sometimes so the defense gets the practice against the running quarterback. But I love when you take that away from him he still manages the offense and does a great job."

The wind made things hard on all kickers today? "It was tricky. It's good learning for them. I thought Sobes (Evan Sobiesk) did well. I made him kick the one into the wind right there; what I'm proud of, I don't think he got ahold of it which is disappointing, but he didn't try to…a lot of times you feel that wind and you're trying to kill it. And he didn't. He stayed nice and consistent, smooth. So that was OK. The protection let down on one which I've got to look at; great effort on the defense to get a block, but that was a protection issue."

"But it was really good for Devon out here today in punting. He had that wind at his back and it's like walking up to that tee box and it's a 300-yard par four and thinking I'm going to go get it right here. All you need is a nice little three wood out there, probably even get away with an iron! You saw punting today for him, he tried to kill one or two and it went bad; then he settled down and had some nice punts."

How confident are you in the kicking game right now? "I'm confident in the guys. I'm very confident in the guys with the kicking game because they've played in games. They've been in pressure situations, they've been in rough situations. So I mean they're not going to be perfect, the great thing is when they're not perfect as older guys they're not going to get flustered. They're going to come back and get it fixed. Like a Devon did today when he goes and tries to kill a punt early on. Hey, just be consistent. It's not like it is going to get in their head, they're going to get themselves back on track."

Kivon Coman made plays on defense and special teams, what has his development been like? "I think really good. One of the things, you look today, the winners and the losers in the scrimmage; the one defense and the two offense were the winners today. But our standards, I guess we don't have a two deep, we're 1A, 1B on defense. We want to be able to play 22-some guys on defense. And it's important for guys like Kivon to allow us to do that."

How is Gabe Myles as a receiver? "He's adjusting. Here's the thing, like everybody at that position, like Jameon Lewis even. And he's a little bit further behind Jameon is one-offense coming in. But a high school quarterback he's most comfortable when the ball's in his hand. We've got to get him comfortable when the ball is not in his hand playing out here. And that's going to come. He's got a great work ethic so I don't worry about it. The key is his patience. These guys are competitors, they want to be great and want to do things right all the time. And sometimes they have to learn they've got to walk before they can go run, and learn all the basics."

How is Brandon Holloway adjusting to the backfield? "The benefit, he was a high school tailback, he played some running back last spring. And now that feel for moving in there for full-time…honestly it's probably bad coaching by us not doing it (earlier). That's his best position out here for us. I probably should have had him in that position much sooner."


PASSING: Dak Prescott 16-of-26, 175 yards, 1 TD; Damian Williams 12-of-19, 119 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT; Nick Fitzgerald 11-of-20, 173 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT; Josiah Phillips 2-of-2, 48 yards.

RUSHING: Nick Griffin 11 for 74 yards, 2 TD, long 52; Ashton Shumpert 11 for 61, long 24; Brandon Holloway 15 for 67, long 29; Trey Braswell 5 for 13, 1 TD, long 5; Van Lee 4 for 19; Jeremy Chappelle 1 for 6; Damian Williams 8 for 13; Dak Prescott 5 for 11; Josiah Phillips 3 for 20; Nick Fitzgerald 19 for minus-14.

RECEIVING: Malcolm Johnson 6 for 127, 1 TD; Gus Walley 5 for 67; Jeremy Chappelle 4 for 52, 1 TD; Jameon Lewis 4 for 11; Fred Brown 3 for 108, 2 TD; Gabe Myles 3 for 42, 1 TD; Fred Ross 3 for 2; Robert Johnson 2 for 7; De'Runnya Wilson 1 for 18.

TACKLE LEADERS: Dezmond Harris 9, John Harris 8, Richie Brown 7, Kivon Coman 7, Benardrick McKinney 6, Matt Wells 5, Jamerson Love 5

SACKS: John Harris 3, Trent Simpson 2, Torrey Dale, Kelan Chairs, Justin Cox 1 each

TACKLES FOR LOSSES: John Harris 5, Jamerson Love 3, Richie Brown 2

PASSES BROKEN UP: Deontay Evans 2, Preston Smith, Kivon Coman, Dezmond Harris 1

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