Mullen Addresses Media In Weekly Press Conference
"We'll start with the injury report. We don’t expect anybody else back. Fred Ross is going to be out for the year with a broken collarbone suffered in the last game. Everybody else that has been out, will still be out. Tyler Russell is going to be the same as he was last week. We’ll see as the week goes on, but for right now he’s day-to-day.
“Dak [Prescott] will probably be ready for a bowl game at this point. Talking with our doctors, we hoped he would progress faster, but it hasn’t happened so we will hopefully get him for a bowl game."
On this week's game ...
“Obviously it's a different week with playing on a short week. But it’s neat [to do that] with your rivalry game. I’m excited to play this game on Thanksgiving night.
"My first I guess experience with the Egg Bowl was when I was in a hotel room in Palo Alto, Calif. I was a grad assistant at Notre Dame and watched the ball kicked up in the air and saw Mississippi State score 10 points in the last 30 seconds to win. And that game was Thanksgiving night.
“It’s a really neat deal and a neat opportunity for us to get to play on Thanksgiving night. It's a little bit of tradition brought back to the game, in addition to the excitement it already has.”
On the amount of injuries suffered ...
“We’ve missed around 100 games from our original two-deep this year. I’ve never had a season like that before where we have had that many people miss.”
On senior running back LaDarius Perkins and player development ...
“We expect him to be OK to play in this game. Perk has done a really, really good job for us throughout his career. You look at a lot of the guys in our program and the success they have in their careers. I think it gets lost sometimes. We’re in such an instant gratification society.
"Many of our guys come in and [people say] oh my goodness a guy redshirted, what does that mean? It means he should redshirt. I wish they gave everybody five years of eligibility to be honest with you. That way they could get maybe a little bit of playing time here or there in certain games as a freshman. Or every once in a while cover a kickoff to learn about the speed of the game, just so the guys keep themselves motivated and interested. I think they do better academically that way, too, when there’s a chance they can play.
“But Perk came, redshirted and did a great a job with all of that stuff. The next year he came in and rotated with Vick Ballard, but continued to progress. He was a change-up guy and made a lot of big plays for us. Then all of a sudden he became the feature back and had a 1,000-yard rushing season.
"I know this year probably statistically didn’t turn out the way he wanted it to with the numbers. He just kind of got banged-up a bunch of different times during the season. But it doesn’t diminish anything that he’s accomplished here.
"With all the great things he’s accomplished, he's especially become a role model on how to do things the right way and take care of your business. He knows how to develop as a player and not get worried.
"Too many guys worry about the wrong things and want to know as freshmen how many carries did you get? I want a freshman to ask how many right assignments did I have? That’s much more important. As guys learn to do that, they learn to develop to become much better players.”
On senior quarterback Tyler Russell and his leadership ...
“It was great. At the quarterback position, that’s the guy who has to lead your program. When I got hired, I didn’t know Tyler and he didn’t really know me. That’s the guy that you’re going to put everything on.
"When we first talked, I wanted to make sure he was the guy. I didn’t know the previous staff or any of those guys on the previous staff, so I didn’t know how their recruiting was and how they had done things. I wanted to make sure the guy who was going to be our leader wanted to be our leader for all the right reasons and do it the right way.
“The great thing about it is that Tyler did. When we had that conversation, he knew he wanted to be here and wanted to look at things. I remember him calling me when I was in Florida coaching the national championship game. It was a night or two before the game, and he called and said, 'I want to be your leader, I want to be your quarterback.' That showed me he had what we were looking for.
“And he’s been that throughout his career. Look at his performance Saturday. I think it was one of the best performances of his career on Saturday [at Arkansas]. To come in as a fifth-year senior, not be at 100 percent, have half a practice during the week, and to step in in a tough environment against a good defense, one of the best pass-rushing defenses in the league, was huge.
"Then he went 18-for-28 for 263 yards and two touchdowns. He led the team. I mean it was a cold, windy day for a guy who was not 100 percent and didn’t many reps in practice against the top pass-rushing team in the league. He went out and led the team to a win.
"That just shows why we had that conversation in the beginning and why we were excited that he’s been our quarterback since he’s been here. He has had what it takes to win and lead our program. And that all showed on Saturday.”
On a potential 'wildcat' package with Jameon Lewis ...
“Yeah, it’s a very different type of deal. Chad [Bumphis] would have a little play or two here or there for him to snap at it. But a bunch of guys are high school quarterbacks. I’ve got Gabe 'Football' Myles right here in Starkville. He played Johnny Manziel that week of practice.
“We’ve got some guys and we’ll have a plan. Hopefully Tyler is ready to go again. If he’s not, we’ve got Damian Williams. For Damian, it’s been pretty interesting for the last two weeks. He’s had his number called at some interesting times.
"His first play was at our own three-yard line on Saturday. Then his last play was in overtime. He didn’t get many snaps in between. The week before he rolls out in the fourth quarter to try to lead a comeback against No. 1 Alabama. So I guess as far as big situations go, we’ve thrown him in that fire the last couple of weeks.
“But we’ll see how it goes. We’ll have a plan. We’ll have Sam Cowart and Josh Hand. They know all the different checks. If we have to put Jameon Lewis back there, we’ll be able to do that. He can go play some quarterback if we have to.”
On the outcome of the Ole Miss game impacting recruiting in the state ...
“To be honest with you, I don’t think it’s had much of an impact. I know it has a personal impact. I much more enjoyed the three than the one. It just leaves a smile on your face.
“But I really haven’t seen a huge swing one way or the other in recruiting. We’ve won [the game] and gotten a lot of great players. We’ve lost [the game] and gotten a lot of great players. They’ve won and gotten a lot of great players and they’ve lost and gotten a lot of great players, too. To me, I don’t know that it really turns much.”
On his emotions after last year's game ...
“Our emotions were about what bowl game we were going to. To be honest with you, I wasn’t real happy Saturday night. Then I was probably even less happy after watching the film on Sunday morning. After that I think we had a recruiting meeting and I had a meeting with Jon Clark to put together a December schedule for whatever bowl games we would have possibly gone to. Then I got in the car and headed out recruiting.
“So you just don’t have time to sit there. You could say, 'Boy what a great win for us Saturday. In 113 years, we had our first win in the state of Arkansas of playing football there. It was the first time we beating them twice in a row in who knows how long.' I mean, I was at my desk at 7:15 p.m. It was done and I was on to the next game at 7:15 that night. I got to enjoy that for about 45 minutes and move on.
“So you look at losses the same way and ask 'what’s next?'"
On losing the Egg Bowl ...
“I’m just as mad today about losing last year as I was a year ago Sunday. That doesn’t change things. But you don’t have time really to dwell on things. You’re already on to the next thing that is going to happen within the program.”
On watching the 1999 Egg Bowl ...
“I remember we got on a plane. Casey Robbin was sitting next to me and he lives down in New Orleans now. He was our backup left tackle. We flew out and landed and I think had practice on that Thursday. We went out early to practice because we were on the other side of the country. We went to the hotel room and had a big Thanksgiving dinner and then had all our meetings.
"We’re back in our hotel room that night. It was obviously late so I didn’t see much of the game, but I saw the end.
“When I came here I always assumed that that was a Thanksgiving day game. In Manchester, N.H., they play the Turkey Bowl on Thanksgiving, no matter what. In fact, my senior year of high school we played it in eight inches of snow. We were the only game played in all of New England that day because they don’t cancel the Turkey Bowl.
"Unfortunately we lost to West. It was a very heart-crushing loss because we’d already beaten them twice in the season, once in the regular season and once in the playoffs, and then we lost.
“To me, I just assumed the Egg Bowl was on Thanksgiving, just like the Cowboys and the Lions are on Thanksgiving. It was on Thanksgiving for a while after that 1999 game, so if we weren’t playing and you’d turn on the TV and see that game on Thanksgiving, it was a pretty neat deal. When I came here I was kind of disappointed to find out it wasn’t on Thanksgiving. Now it is. I’m excited.
“When you have something like that, not that the rivalry needs more, but I think it just makes it more unique.”
On Dak Prescott's potential return ...
“In talking to our doctors, no [he will not be back this week]. They say it was just one of those one-in-a-million type of things. Where he got hit there is no structural damage. Until all the strength comes back, he’s not going to be cleared to go play.
"They said in one range-of-motion he has all his strength back; in the other he doesn’t have much. It’s kind of in one range-of-motion the nerve is just not firing the right way, or recovered the right way yet."
On the reversed positions of Mississippi State and Ole Miss this year from last year ...
“No, two years ago we were in the same position, here at home. We were 5-6 going into this game, got a big win and went on to the Music City Bowl. We needed a win there, too.
"I don’t see much of it besides that. I think when you play this game, we could be 11-0 or we could be 0-11. I think when you play this game it's for a lot of fans and a lot of people in this state for how you feel. I bet if you talked to a lot of our fans and said, 'Hey, you’re going to go 11-1 and lose the Egg Bowl,' they’d be pretty disappointed. If you said, 'You’re going to go 1-11 and win the Egg Bowl,' they’d say, I’ll take that. I probably wouldn’t be happy with either of the scenarios right there, I’d want to be 12-0 and winning the Egg Bowl.
“But this game in itself is really its own entity. It’s a special game. Rivalry games are so fun because of that. It's a unique game. A lot of times there’s a lot to be played for on top of the rivalry. I’ve been fortunate enough to play in those type of games. In rivalry games it means even more. But still, your No. 1 focus is you want to beat your rival and get the bragging rights for the state for the next year.”