He’s back in Mississippi, his next game is at home and his team is still climbing up the polls.
But Dan Mullen can’t rest. If anything, it’s only harder this week with Tennessee coming to town.
Overall, the head coach thought his team played well, but he noticed the same thing plenty of others did. After a great start to the game, MSU got a little slow, and not for the first time.
“We gotta look into it,” Mullen said. “I think our guys get a lead on people, they get up and they kind of take their foot off the gas a little bit. You can’t do that. That’s one thing. The positive is we’re winning games. We’re up big on people, but what we have to do is continue to execute at a very high level and keep our focus throughout all 60 minutes, even when we have a lead.”
While the intitial slippage is disconcerting, the end results have all been positive, thanks in part, Mullen says, to leadership and dependability from some of his top guys.
“Even when we’ve been up and we start to slip a little bit, when we need to make plays, we make plays,” he said.
Mullen also said he noticed his quarterback Tyler Russell taking a lot of hits during the game, but said once he reviewed the film, it wasn’t as bad as it seemed in live action.
“A couple missed blocks,” Mullen said. “I’m not always looking, sometimes I look at the coverage then see him on his butt after the play. One thing I notice, too, is he’s on his butt a bunch without getting hit hard.”
That’s the key, according to Mullen, that many of “hits” are just the usual bumps which Russell absorbs nicely. The head coach didn’t see to many truly hard licks on his quarterback.
Next up? The Volunteers.
“We’re gonna have our hands full, a traditional power team like Tennessee,” Mullen said. “Their two losses were very close and to two very good teams. I think it’ll be an exciting environment and we’re gonna have to play really good football.”
Of course, the headline match-up will be UT’s junior quarterback Tyler Bray and receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson against cornerbacks Johnthan Banks, Darius Slay and MSU’s vaunted secondary.
“They’re an extremely explosive offense,” Mullen said. “You see that with some of the numbers they put up and how much they score on people.”
While the receivers are top-notch talent, Mullen said it’s Bray who makes the offense click.
He’s confident in his own defense, of course, but Mullen acknowledged Bray is a quarterback who has the ability to be successful against MSU’s stingy pass defense.
“He’s got a big arm, he’s a very accurate passer,” Mullen said. “He finds a way to keep some plays alive when he needs to, stands in the pocket when he needs to. When he gets on, he can really throw the football. A guy that can throw the football can beat almost any coverage. He can beat it with timing and ball placement. If you put the ball where it needs to be, you can beat any coverage. He does a really good job of that. On top of that, he’s got a cannon for an arm.”
We’ll have more from Mullen, assistant coaches and, perhaps, even a couple of players later today after Mullen’s weekly press conference at 1 p.m.