No breaks, no deep breaths and no mercy for Dan Mullen.
I made up the no mercy part, but Mississippi State’s head coach stated his case emphatically that the Bulldogs can’t rest on their successes as they prepare for their final non-conference game.
In fact, it’s not just the players he’s concerned with. Mullen sent a message to fans, as well. He said just as his team came out lethargic in the second half against South Alabama two weeks ago, so did the crowd in Davis Wade.
Mullen wants both his team and fans to arrive on campus with the same intensity this week as they did against Tennessee on Saturday night.
Speaking of this weekend, Middle Tennessee will officially be without their starting running back, one of the top rushers in college football this year. That said, Mullen doesn’t expect the Blue Raider rushing attack to take a big hit.
“There’s talent there,” Mullen said of the depth for MTSU at tailback, “and that’ll be a rallying cry for them.”
Defensive coordinator Chris Wilson said, at this point in the season, “you kind of are what you are,” saying MTSU runs the ball about 60 percent of the time.
Between losing a star and, well, not being in the SEC, it could be easy for MSU to over-look their homecoming opponent.
Mullen said maintaining focus will be up to his players and the leadership on the team, as he hopes they learned lessons from non-conference letdowns early in the season.
“Every game’s a trap game,” Mullen said. “If you don’t bring your focus in college football today, you’re not going to win.”
As Mullen has said often this year, MSU has to be able to deal with the “adversity of success” and maintaining focus amidst wining big game.
Mullen also stuck to the party line of not looking ahead to the future or getting too ahead of themselves when asked if he and the team talk about the possibility of a national championship, now they’re undefeated and knocking on the top 10 of the BCS standings.
“Eh, I guess it’s out there,” Mullen said. “We’re worried about an SEC Championship.”
In injury news, Mullen said the Bulldogs escaped Saturday night’s game healthy, with nothing more than typical bumps and bruises.
Importantly, returning offensive stars Tobias Smith and Malcolm Johnson emerged unscathed and feeling well.
Smith, by the way, was named the SEC Co-Offensive Lineman of the Week for his performance against Tennessee.
Offensive line coach John Hevesy said it was not only Smith but his entire unit who played one of its best games of the season, as three different guys (Smith, Gabe Jackson and Blaine Clausell) graded out above 90 percent, with everyone on the line hitting at least 85 percent.