STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State head football coach Dan Mullen holds his weekly press conference Monday afternoons in the Leo Seal Jr. Football Complex. Free on-demand video of each week's press conference will be posted in the story rotation (main and football pages only) on HailState.com, along with an associated transcript.
Dan Mullen Press Conference Transcript - 11/4/13
“Obviously a tough week for us, outside of football, with Dak Prescott’s mom Peggy passing away early Sunday morning. I know within the program we’re a very tight-knit family. When someone in our family has to go through something like that it’s always a very, very difficult situation. Our prayers are always with him and our prayers are with the whole family.
“I thank everybody who has been sharing their prayers with Dak and his family. I know that’s much appreciated. I know they thank everybody for respecting their privacy with what they’re having to going to go through as a family right now.
“But it’s a very, very difficult situation for all of us to see. Fortunately both my parents are still alive. To see one of our young men and someone we care so much have to go through this is very, very difficult. I know all his teammates are there. A lot of them were here yesterday supporting him. And he’s been able to get home and spend time with his family.
“The game this week for us, obviously, is going to be a tough challenge playing one of the best, if not the best, offenses in the country. You say that through a consistency standpoint. The fewest points they’ve scored in a game this season is 41. A lot of teams put up huge numbers, but statistics can sometimes be deceiving because you have to do it consistently. When 41 is their lowest point total, they’re a very, very explosive offense.
"They’ve done a great job. They have a lot of talented players. You look and they had several first-round draft picks last year. It looks like they’re going to have a bunch more first-round draft picks this year. So, obviously an extremely talented football team that we have to go play. And (we’re) playing the defending Heisman Trophy winner.
"We go last week from playing the best defensive player in the country last week, to this week playing probably the best offensive player in the country. So, a great challenge for our guys."
“Injury report: Ferlando Bohanna out, Josh Creekmore out, Torrey Dale out, Brandon Hill out, Jay Hughes out, Justin Malone out, Gus Walley out, Jordan Washington out, Tobias Smith out and Dee Arrington out this week. Everybody else we expect to be available for the game.”
What are some of your thoughts of Dak’s mother?
“Well, obviously a very, very strong mom. The best way I can judge somebody is how she raised her son. And you know, I hope my son turns out like Dak.
"He’s a great student and a great football player. He's a great effort guy, a teammate and a leader. He does everything the right way and does it as hard as he possibly can.
"Going through everything she’s had to go through and the love that she has not just for Dak but all her sons is pretty amazing. They were a tight-knit family. She took a lot of pride in them.
"I look to knowing her through recruiting and all that. I know how strong she was with him and how strong he was in his belief in coming here. He had a lot of different opportunities throughout recruiting, but she wanted him here. And the character he’s had since he’s been here and how they handled all the ups and downs since he’s been here. She’s been amazing and very, very supportive of him all along. She was obviously a great mom.”
With Johnny Manziel, is it as simple as pick your poison?
“Well, it is. I mean there’s a little bit of everything. There’s obviously his ability to run the football, which you have to defend against. Then there's his ability to throw the football, which you have to defend against. Then the third part is his ability to improvise. In improvising he can run or throw.
"That is where the difficult problem comes in. If you defend him in the run game--they have unbelievable running backs and a great offensive line—but if you can slow them down, you’re sound. In that situation, somebody has the quarterback, the running back, we’re all gap-sound and make plays in the run game.
"Then you have to be able to defend their receivers. I know their coach is promoting their receiver for a Heisman Trophy over a guy who already has one. That shows how prolific that is.
“So you can match up that and stop the run. Then you stop the pass. It’s the third option that comes and gets you. That's the improvisational skills of him to extend plays. To take a pass play and extend it into a big pass play. On a short throw, he scrambles around and launches it deep on you. On a deep throw, he scrambles around and takes off running for a big play. Those are the type of things that make them such a prolific offense.”
Looking at film was the turnovers at South Carolina just one of those days?
“You look at each one of them and there is a very different reason for each one of them happening. Give South Carolina credit, though, those guys made plays and were running to the football. Usually when you play hard and run to the ball, good thing happen.
"Some of the balls were tipped and when a ball is tipped in the right way you could say you get lucky. I’m a big believer that the ball bounces into the guy who goes hard, not the hands of the guys who are lucky. So give them credit for being in those positions to make some of those plays as well.”
Can you assess the job Blaine Clausell did with Jadeveon Clowney?
“In looking at it, I was wrong in talking to our team. I thought Clowney was going to make the play. I said we can’t let the big play affect us. He still had a couple of tackles and a tipped ball. But I think overall throughout the plan, our guys handled situations well. Whether they were one-on-one on him or whether they were getting help with him.
“The thing I was happiest with was the execution of the plan. I was pleased with our guys understanding whether we were going to slide a protection to him, chip him with a back coming out of the backfield, put a guy over his head to release off him to kind of slow down his rush or single- or double-block him on the line. Our guys really did a good job understanding where their help was coming from. The guy who was ultimately responsible for him knew where his help was and was in the right position to get the job done.
"A lot of times, a player like that, even with all that help, is still going to win. I guess you could say we kind of contained his impact on the game.”
You’ve said losses are never as bad as they seem. Are you able to see the film think the team was good for all but five-10 plays?
“Well, it was. Defensively, 50 percent of their possessions were three-and-outs, which is what you want. Unfortunately, we gave them the ball three times deep in our own territory. That’s hard to defend from.
"We had a couple times on their longer drives when we gave up big plays. One time we’ve got them in second-and-long situation and we blitz and don’t get home and they throw a screen. They had a great call into the blitz.
“There was another when we missed the safety coming over the top. It was very similar to the play on our possession when their safety came over and tipped the ball away. Our safety came over and just missed. They scored on that. It's a game of inches in that way.”
“You look at it and there are a lot of positives. I thought we moved the ball. To think we had almost double the number of first downs than they had. We had more yards than they had. And we turned it over five times. If we hadn’t turned over the ball, what the execution would have been?
"You can see a lot of the things. There’s nothing good about a loss. And losses are terrible. Wins are great. Now, how did you get to them? That’s why I say it’s never as bad or never as good as it seems. How you got there is usually pretty close, but the end result is very drastically different and the process of getting there is very close.”
You talked last year about how the Alabama loss snowballed the season. How do you prevent that this season?
“It’s just such a different whole deal this year. Last year, you’re 7-0 going into that Alabama game and we let that one game affect another game. There are very different circumstances this year. I think of the snowball of those three-straight losses last year, and I mean all of them were to top-ten teams. So those teams have something to do with that, too, not just us.
“That’s what we have again this year. We have another top-15 team this weekend. This is our fifth team so far that is currently ranked in the top-15. That’s why guys come here, because you want to play in those games. You come to the SEC to want to play in all these big games, and we get another one this weekend.”
Will Devon Bell still punt and Evan Sobiesk still kick field goals, or will you look at practice?
“I like being successful. I like big, long punts with great hang time. I like field goals that go through the uprights. I like kickoffs that go out of the back of the end zone. So if that’s the recipe for it, that’s what we do.
"We always evaluate practice every week. Usually, practice emulates what is going to happen in the game. What you see in practice is going to happen in the game. Within the kicking game this week that’s what you saw. The guys who performed the best in practice played in the game and they performed at a very high level in the game. That’s the norm of what happens, and that’s why we evaluate practice so much.”
Besides Manziel what would you do to contain Mike Evans?
“You can only put so many guys on so many people. And they have some great, explosive, big-time running backs who they can hand the ball off to. They have a very good receiving corps of not just one guy, but of multiple guys. If say OK and put two guys on Manziel and two guys on Evans, the other seven are taking on nine. We’re two short and that could be problems.
“You look at all the talent they have and that’s what makes them a tough offense. What you have to do is execute at a very, very high level. You have to execute by being in the right position, by tackling the ball in the open field, by being where you need to be in coverage. You’re going to have to force them to execute at a high level.
"If Johnny Manziel scrambles around and throws one up and Mike Evans jumps over our guys and catches the ball, there’s not a whole lot you can do about that. What you have to avoid is the scrambles around and having nobody near Mike Evans. That’s a problem. Or nobody is near another receiver, or all of a sudden they hand the ball off and nobody is in a gap. Those are the big problems. Their guys making plays are not as big of a problem as you being sound and fundamentally where you’re supposed to be. And then we have to go make the play.”
Is there any thought Prescott will practice or play?
“I haven’t thought anything about any of that yet. As it regards to Dak it’s about the family. I know they’re going to look at their funeral arrangements and he’ll have our full support.”
Was Tyler Russell close to healthy?
“He was. He practiced last night fine. He had a boot on most of last week. He practiced last night and was good. The fact he didn’t have to play on Saturday certainly is adding to his being 100 percent healthy this week. If he had to play Saturday, I’m not sure he would be 100 percent for this game.”