"I Wanted That Attacking Mindset"

"Wow, that was fun," Coach Dan Mullen said as he settled into a seat at the interview room table. And it had been fun as Mississippi State presented him with not just the first victory of his Bulldog tenure, but a victorious debut as a head college coach.

But before speaking about the game itself, Mullen took care of one other item as he read a prepared statement about the Bulldog who missed all the opening game fun. "Anthony Dixon was suspended for today's game as part of his continued discipline, as result of his actions of July. This was not the only step of his discipline, nor was it one we took lightly. Anthony has also been enrolled in counseling, he will continue that process. During the past few weeks Anthony has done everything our team has asked of him to work his way back on the field. He'll remain on our team probation throughout the rest of this fall, we look forward to having him back next week playing at Auburn. That should really close out that situation and we won't comment any more on the Anthony Dixon situation."

"Today's game, I'm really, really proud of our guys. Obviously it's an honor your first game as a head football coach to walk, I'm really happy. I'll be forever indebted to this team for giving me that great honor. They came out today and played hard and focused all week, did a heck of a job. Carl Torbush and our whole defensive staff did a great job preparing those guys, they played great defense. We bent a little bit there at the end but we were able to get something done that we wanted to do; which was get a lot of guys playing time. We want to be able to have a defense that is deep, that we can rotate. When you play in the Southeastern Conference you have to have more than just 11 or 22 guys that can play on defense, we have to be able to roll guys through. And I was proud of everybody that set foot on the field on the defensive side today, they did a great job."

"Offensively we have a ways to go. Really sloppy first half, when you go through a first half with two turnovers, a touchdown called back on a penalty, several other false start penalties and holding penalties, two drives result in missed field goals. That's not the offensive execution we need. I was pleased with our guys that they came out the second half, competed, cleaned some things up and started to execute much better and settle in. We have a lot of work to do offensively between now and next Saturday to get ourselves ready to go on the road and play down at Auburn."

"I was pleased with some of our effort on special teams, besides the two missed field goals. I think our kickoff team really set the tone to the second half with the field position, we held them pinned back deep and put our defense on the field when Jackson State had to start inside their own 20. That's a great position, where we want our defense to be. Our kickoff team, our punt return team, our special teams did not put our defense in a bad situation and I was really pleased with that. And Sean (Brauchle) came out and made a couple of kicks as the game went on and got some of those first game jitters out."

"But what an unbelievable atmosphere out there today, too. The student body obviously showed up, this place was packed well before kickoff. The rest of our fans showed up, supported it. And it's to be a part of a historic game like that and I hope we have more of those games to show the pride people have in this state and show the support they have in their football teams by coming out and having a great game against Jackson State. Give them a lot of credit, their kids fought hard for four quarters. The way they came out the fourth quarter and put a drive together, executed. We wish them the best and hope they represent this state really well on their way to winning a conference championship this year."

Q: Can you evaluate your quarterbacks, and how is Tyson Lee's shoulder? "Yeah, they said Tyson was having some shoulder spasms in the second half. They said he could go if we wanted him to go. We'd been rotating a bunch early, we put Chris in and he did a good job, we thought why bother with it right now, let Tyson rest, we didn't need him to come back in at that point in the game."

"I'm really pleased with the way Chris played. I still see us as somewhat of a two-quarterback system, I'm not ready—especially going on the road—to put all that on one of our quarterbacks. We'll let them both shoulder the load and between the two of them I think they can handle it."

Q: On the first play call of the game there wasn't a chance you were going to run the ball? (laughs) "You know, early in the week I looked at the coaches and said hey we're going to start with a first pass on the first play. John Hevesy our line coach has been with me a long time, he said if you say that on Tuesday let's see if you say that on Saturday morning! Because of the field position our kickoff return gave us on the first play, we wanted to come out and open things up. I wanted that attacking mindset of our team and know that we're always going to be attacking. I think that first play-call of the game got them in that mindset."

Q: Talk about the freshmen who played today? "We played some of those young receivers; Bumphis, Heavens, Chris Smith I think had a catch today, Taylor Reed had a nice grab (but) did a little push-off beforehand. We're going to get those guys out and get experience, they have a long way to go in blocking on the perimeter. And as young wide receivers that is one of the key parts to becoming a complete player. When you recruit these guys in high school, you throw them the ball in the open field and they can run and make something really exciting happen; that's not the whole game of football. They need to become complete players as we progress through the season."

Q: On the fourth-and-one before halftime you bring in Chris Relf to run the ball? "We wanted to get Chris in there. To be honest if we're going to run the quarterback there, Tyson Lee is 195-200 pounds and Chris is 240 so he has a little more oomph coming behind him on that play. But I was pleased with both of them. The got a lot of first-game jitters out there."

"The one thing that really disappointed me the most on offense is the penalties, we have to get that cleaned-up in a hurry. And the two turnovers are really disappointing this first game. I know that's not Christian Ducre, he's going to come back strong and it's not going to change our faith in him."

Q: Was it a relief after their injuries to have Robert Elliot and Arnil Stallworth able to do the job today? "It was great. You know what, those two now feel very confident now moving forward from this point. When you come off those knee injuries you don't know how you're going to react when you get to a live situation. And both of them played pretty well today."

Q: How important was it for Ducre to bounce back from the fumbles? "That's always huge. Christian is a senior, looking at him on the sidelines he was really frustrated with himself. Not a young guy, not shell-shocked, not a guy that just completely went in the tank. He was frustrated with himself and wanted to get back out there. And I was pleased with what he did."

Q: How did the last-minute delay affect the mood? "Yeah, obviously you get prepped-up, you get that adrenalin rush, you build up. And we work in our plan to peak at the moment we go take the field and be ready to go get after somebody. And to be told at that peak you have to jog back in and sit around another half an hour, it was a little frustrating. Fortunately our staff did a good job of keeping everybody corralled, we relaxed for a couple of minutes and after about 15 minutes Matt Balis got everybody up and did a little stretch routine and warm-up in the locker room, the quarterbacks threw a little bit in one of the hallways, just for everybody to stay loose and relaxed and come out ready to perform."

Q: As a first-time head coach it looked like you got animated with a receiver and again with officials? "You know, maybe some of that is just frustration with that stuff at times. But I guess my calm and other people's calm might be a little bit different. I'm always going to have a little fire to me. And I thought our receivers weren't getting the job done at that point, and I'm not talking about just catching the ball. I'm talking about blocking, doing their job on the perimeter. So we needed to get in their faces a little bit at that point."

"And when you have those young guys, we're going to go through some growing pains with our wide receivers. But I think they're going to have the talent to make some things happen down the road."

Q: The defense was able to make things easier for the offense that third quarter? "That makes it a lot easier. When you get in a field position game, the one thing we need to do is score when we get down in the red zone. We work a lot in the red zone. We missed a couple of field goals and come away with a couple of missed opportunities, it was disappointing for us. But the defense came out today and play solid, they played solid. We were able to roll some guys through and the whole two-deep came out and made plays. And as the game went on they got more and more confident. We need that to carry us. We need to play great defense. Mississippi State's played great defense as long as I can ever remember watching college football and watching Mississippi State play. And that's never going to change under my regime, we will be a great defensive team, we will build ourselves around defense."

Q: What was the mindset in the halftime locker room? "It wasn't frustration, it was kind of our defense saying let's get a stop, get the offense on the board, put them in position to be successful, and once they get a little confidence it will start rolling. So I was pretty pleased with that at halftime. There was no panic, no concern. There were a lot of guys trying to get each other going, they believed once we got it going things would be pretty good."

Q: How fitting was it for Jamar Chaney to make the first tackle after last year? "Having Jamar to be the emotional leader of your team, that's huge for him. We go as he goes. That middle linebacker position, that is who the whole team rallies around. And you need to have not just a great player but a great person and a great leader at that spot. They are the center of your defense. So I'm pleased with everything Jamar has done for us. Since my first team meeting in January until today Jamar has done nothing but believe in what we're trying to teach and develop within this program. It's great for us to have him back out there."

"I know we exploded a little bit to start that second half. But that's a lot due to the special teams and defense creating great field position for us. We're not going to be satisfied with where we are defensively, we have a lot of improving to do. We have a lot to improve on the offensive side of the ball, and as a coaching staff we have a lot to do to eliminate a lot of mistakes. But you know what, I'm really pleased, our staff has worked really hard and I'm really happy everybody gets to go enjoy this win. It's hard to win a Division I football game, we get to enjoy this win—coaches with their families and players with this great student body that supported us. And I look forward to next week."

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