Mullen Enjoys Today's Spring Game Show

Dan Mullen was in a hurry of sorts. Not that he minds meeting media to talk the team, but there was another audience needing attention. "So I can go talk to the recruits," the coach said. That bunch was ready to listen too, after watching—along with more than 20,000 fans—an entertaining Maroon-White Game.

Not just entertaining but genuinely exciting at the end. An interception of walk-on QB Josiah Phillips by S Kivon Coman as the running second-half clock wound down to a 1:20 put the Maroon side in position to kick for the victory. They almost missed it; not the kick but the opportunity. Phillips stripped the ball from Coman who had to recover it back; then it took 45 seconds for the pile to un-pile. Then PK Evan Sobiesk had to be hustled onto the field as QB Dak Prescott lined up the kicking squad and started counting cadence.

Fortunately for one team everybody was properly positioned for a snap at seven seconds, and Sobiesk' 28-yarder was good for a 41-38 final. Well, not good for everyone. The White side not only lost but will be by themselves Sunday morning at Davis Wade Stadium. "We almost had both teams here, you know?" Mullen said. "A tie means both teams would have been cleaning up the stadium tomorrow. But by executing that we'll see the White team out bright and early."

With ten touchdowns and three field goals (there was one missed PAT) both offenses had their share of execution, obviously. Oh, and a two-point conversion as well, by Phillips too as he bulled over at 3;18 of the clock-winding fourth period for a 38-38 tie. Had he known about the tie-trash team policy it's likely Phillips would not have thrown that first-down pass from his own ten-yard line which set up the Maroon win.

The individual offensive numbers are available. What mattered more than plays or points to Mullen was how the overall play pointed to a successful spring session, and serves as a springboard into summer.

"It was a good day today, I was happy. I saw some good football out there on the field. I always appreciate our fans, we had a great crowd here today, I don't know what the numbers ended up being but a great crowd. We got to see, which is what I wanted, a lot of young players put in situations that maybe they haven't been in before in this stadium. And a pretty exciting day."

How did Dak Prescott look? "Good. I mean everything was kept really simple. But to me what's good is seeing a guy that as we're keeping things simple he came out and still executed really clean. I think he was pretty consistent. Most of the touchdowns (came) on most of the drives he was in there, which is what you expect to see. Not forcing stuff, just coming out and doing what he needs to do to get the job done. So that's pretty good. We'll turn him loose a little bit more in the fall."

What have you seen different in the month of work? "Just being able to come out here not depending on a certain aspects of the game. He's not going to depend on the physical aspect of his game; he's depending on the skill aspect of his game and making sure he can move the offense, execute and do what he needs to do with his skills more than his physicality." Was the competition what you hoped for? "41-38, with a last second field goal. It ended up somehow I split those teams up pretty evenly today!"

"You know, it was. It was pretty good. I think we ended up walking out of here today real healthy which that's always a big concern. But you feel great about that. I think you look at the guys, our guys enjoy playing. They're a close knit team, they have a lot of fun together and they had fun out here on the field today."

Have you felt better about a group of receivers than this year's? "Not here at Mississippi State I don't think I have. We've had some good ones, we've had some good groups in the past. I think we have receivers that have upped their career since we've been here in a lot of statistics. But the great thing I think we've been able to do this year is develop some depth and guys know it. Where you want to be, is be deep at receiver. Because you don't guys having to play 70 or 80 plays in the course of a game. I'd rather be able to rotate them. And when you feel just as good about your one receivers as you do your two receivers, I mean it's a comforting feeling that you have that depth and those guys you know can go out there and make plays."

Was this your best spring for the work ethic or talent? "I just thing everything. I mean we have some good talent, we have experienced guys coming back. The guys coming back have shown great leadership, a great push from themselves, a drive every single day to get better. This team has pretty high expectations of themselves, our players have high expectations of themselves. But they come out and work and try to push themselves and get better every single day. That to me is what you need to do and what you want from an experienced unit."

A lot of returners are at skill positions which isn't the case at many SEC programs, is this year for your guys to do something? "Well, we feel every year is the year for us to do something. We'll find out. We've played against each other now since New Years Eve, so we've only been around each other. I don't know how good anybody else is, or what type of teams they have."

"But I know this team's expectations. Every year we're coming in to control what we can control which is to find a way to win the SEC West. And those are our goals every single year and the expectation the team brings in every single year. Now we've got a lot of work to do over the summer and training camp and over a long season if we want to achieve those goals."

There were a lot of big guys on the sideline, do you still feel good about the depth there? "I do. Some of them didn't play today for us, and some are still in high school or junior college finishing up right now before they get here in the fall. But what I like to see is guys that have their opportunity today came out. And I think you saw clean football. To me that's what I saw. When you get your chance to get on the field how do you go perform? The guys that came out here today on both sides of the line of scrimmage I thought did a pretty solid job."

"I had a pretty ‘soft' whistle with the quarterbacks today, there might have been one or two more sacks out there for the d-linemen. But they know we're going to do that and let guys try to make plays down the field. But with those groups right now…Kaleb Eulls and P.J. Jones didn't get any reps in the spring, just some individual work in. That's pretty good having those two guys coming back, adding onto that defensive line. And Justin Malone on the offensive line and Dillon Day coming back with the groups that have been playing here, it's pretty good."

"And a day like today you split the team in half. You get into a game both offensive lines are on one sideline, and then through Dillon Day and Justin Malone and all that you're going to feel pretty good. The defensive lines are both on one sideline, with Kaleb Eulls and P.J. Jones you're feeling pretty good about that stuff."

Fans and recruits also got to see the stadium taking shape around the game? "It is, I think, a lot of people their first time coming here and I don't know if the renderings or the drawings or the internet does it justice of what an unbelievable stadium and atmosphere we're going to create here. Adding another jumbotron down the other end on top of it, I mean this is going to be an awesome venue and a premier venue in the SEC for football."

What did you see from the placekicking? "What I saw is kind of what I've been seeing. And those guys, you watch them and say hey it's not a matter of whether they can do it. It's just our confidence, our consistency to do things. Both guys have the talent to get the job done. Then we've just got to get that constant confidence to go out there and know every time they're going to put it right down the middle."

It seemed the second defensive line matched up well against the second offensive line, what does that defensive depth give you? "Well, that's what's huge. And they should be, I mean we rotate the d-line a lot more in a game than we do the o-line. So a lot of those guys, we call them the 1B defense, should be ahead of the 2 offense and that's what we want to see. Because we're going to put those guys in, we'll wholesale substitute our defense in the fall, we'll run eleven fresh guys out there to go play. We expect them to play. They have a little competitions to see who is going to play at a higher level, the 1As or the 1Bs out there. So we hope they're a little ahead of our 2 offense."

How happy were you with that ending field goal sequence executed? "Oh, it was fun. Dak took control of it, got them organized; Sobes (Evan Sobiesk) got out there, he had a similar location to end the last time we were on this field! But I think that will lead to some confidence."

"And it will make it a longer cleanup tomorrow. We almost had both teams here, you know? A tie means both teams would have been cleaning up the stadium tomorrow. But by executing that we'll see the White team out bright and early."

Do you like the energy of this as a celebration? "I think our guys really enjoy it. You see a lot of teams not doing spring games any more. Can we get more out of a closed practice or something that we're very controlled practice-wise? Possibly, but I tell you what. The excitement, our guys work hard, they have a lot of fun doing this. And the opportunity to play a game where it's not offense against defense with a weird point system that nobody can figure out… It lets our fans come out, friends and families of all our players come out and watch them go out and play in this stadium and have fun. I think that's pretty valuable for our guys."


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