Dan Mullen Monday Press Conference

“It’s a big game for us this week. With it being last home game for our seniors, they’ve done a great job within this program. They’ve bought into everything that we’ve tried to build here and have been very, very successful and set a lot of records and new standards here at Mississippi State. So, a great day to come out and honor those guys in their last home game this Saturday.”

”It’s going to be a tough challenge for us. Obviously every SEC game is a tough challenge with Vanderbilt coming in. They’ve got a very, very young team. I think they’ve really made some strides. They’ve got the McCrary kid at quarterback now where they had a bunch of issues early in the season. I think they’ve made an awful lot of improvements there. They’re a tough defense, play hard, play physical.”

”And will be a huge challenge for us this Saturday in that game. But we’ve got to make sure our guys come out, we’ve got to play better and we’ve got to continue to improve from where we were last week. And if we can do that and hopefully find a way to get a win, and finish with a perfect record at home this season. Which I was told is only the second time in school history to go 7-0 at home in a season.”

”That would be fantastic for these guys and for our fans that have bought so much into what we’re trying to build, what we’re trying to do that they’re such a huge part of it. We’ve made such an emphasis on winning at home and going undefeated at home would be a pretty special deal.”

How do you think your team has responded to the loss? “We had a pretty good practice yesterday. I think we had a good practice. We’ll see. They’re off today, getting the guys a lot of treatments and get guys healthy and healed-up a little bit, because at this point of the season everyone is banged-up.”

”But I thought they did a pretty good job of practice yesterday. And we’re really going to have to see on Saturday how well they respond to it. I think we’ve handled winning very, very well this season. So we see how we have to handle this adversity at this point. Which, it’s late in the year for that to happen; but see how our guys handle it.”

How did Jameon Lewis play? “He did OK, just getting back onto the rhythm of it. Fortunately being an older player I think it’s a lot easier for him. Because even the moment in the game, he’s played in a lot of big games. So he was just getting back on the field there, going to play. Where a younger player, it might be ‘I’m back’ and the moment on top of it is huge in the game itself big. But I think he handled it pretty well, played pretty well. And glad to say after the game our guys thought he felt good. The last time we got him out there he was kind of sore, he played very minimally. He played a bunch on Saturday and felt really good after the game. So he should be good to go moving forward.”

One of those seniors, Jay Hughes, has been through a lot. Can you talk about him? “Yeah. All of them have amazing stories. Jay, as a young man obviously a very, very high character young man. To me it says so much about our program that he was getting a lot of opportunities to go to a lot of different schools. He chose to come here, to me he chose to come to Mississippi State knowing every detail about the program with his dad being on the staff here. And still chose to come be a part of it and wanted to be a part of this football family. And he’s a Mississippi State graduate, he’s a team captain, he’s given everything that he has to this program. It just shows the type of person he’s going to be moving forward in life. I mean when he’s looking at a goal he’s going to commit himself to that goal and give everything he has and he’s going to be very successful in whatever he does in life.”

What is your reaction to not falling far in the poll, does that bode well for playoff rankings? “There’s so much football still to be played this year. I mean we have to worry about trying to beat Vanderbilt this weekend. The playoff committee, they have their meetings all Monday; I’m in my gameplan meetings all day Monday. So I’m more focused on trying to beat Vanderbilt. And I’m sure they’re focused on trying to analyze I think 128 teams and find out how they rank those teams, 1-thorugh-25 of the top 128.

How do you keep your team focused and not have a hangover effect? “Well, I think they understand. Go ask our team’s opinion of Arkansas. You could have said the same thing about it a couple of weeks ago, you ask our players’ opinion of Arkansas. They’ll tell you they were one of the top teams in the country that they had to go play.”

”So I think in this league our guys really understand that. Especially the older guys, and they set obviously set the tempo of the program. That when you look on film and how teams play, you’re not watching the TV game copies and all that stuff. You’re watching the cut-ups and hey, Vanderbilt has got some very young players that have improved throughout the season; they’ve won two of their last four, they’re coming off a bye-week so they’ve had the extra week to get ready for us and are going to be healthier, fresher and more preparation time leading into this game. So I think our guys understand all that stuff and understand what a hard challenge it’s going to be.”

What do you see in Dak Prescott’s interceptions the last few games? “Which one? They’re all so different. Every one of them is such a different play and a different thing going on. So it’s kind of hard to group any of them together.”

The back shoulder throw has been good to Dak, do they bait him into it? “No, he’s only thrown the one back-shoulder interception this year. I think that was the Auburn game. And a kid made a nice play; he should have gone over the top, I think he just miss-read it on that particular play.”

Being down on turnover margin, how do you get back on pace? “Yeah, that’s not good. In that game I think we were minus-one on the season, that sound right? Well obviously to me that’s something we’ve got to create more turnovers on defense; we’ve got to protect the ball better on offense. I don’t know if there’s many teams in the top-25… And our guys look at that, you look at the quality of team that we have, there’s probably not many teams ranked in the top-25 that are negative turnover ratio on the year. So our guys look at the quality of team that we have, that even despite that we’re still winning games and a lot of games. They look at that pretty positively and understand we have to do a much better job protecting the ball.”

Last year questions surrounded the hot seat, now you’re a hot name; how do you balance those highs and lows? “I live in reality. So my reality is finding a way to win games here at Mississippi State and building this program to be the best program that I can be in. I don’t live in the chat line, blog line, call-in radio show world.”

De’Runnya Wilson said his freshman year was difficult for him, how has he grown? “Going into last year he hadn’t played much football and all he had played was some high school football. So I think everything; the length of the season, the competitiveness of the season, the detail in the game. Every aspect that way is very, very draining on a young man. And I think still he has a long way to go.”

”I think he’s much more comfortable this season in understanding what the football season is going to entail. But the fact he goes from football right to basketball, back into football, is exhausting on kids. It can be mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting on you. But I think he’s really handled all that stuff well. I think coming into this year he’s really learned how to be a wide receiver and how to go prepare for games. If you look at him throughout the season he’s had big games. Other games he doesn’t put in as many stats where they’re trying to take him away. That’s OK. You haven’t seen him be frustrated. If teams are going to give him one-on-one opportunities he’s won and he’s had some pretty good games. And if they’re going to roll coverage to him or double-team him, he understands about being a great teammates. Because if they’re going to double him somebody else is going to be open. And he’s handled all that stuff, I guess the football player aspect of it and not just a great talent. He’s handled that really well.”

Is there a change in pressure from being #1 to having to work back into the mix? “I don’t know, we control our destiny to do whatever in this game this week. We don’t worry about more than this one game. You never can. All we can control is this next game. And I think we’re in complete control in how we perform against Vanderbilt. That’s been our focus all season.”

”I think when you start worrying about too many other big things, that’s when you start losing. And we don’t like to do that. So our whole focus is on the next game, and I think our leadership has done an unbelievable job of that throughout the course of this entire season, of keeping this team focused on the task at hand. And our team’s done a great job of that and our leadership needs to do another great job of it this week in getting ready for Vanderbilt.”

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