Coming off his first loss in nearly a year, Dan Mullen had a lot of messages to share in his weekly Monday press conference.
Namely, he’s ready for Mississippi State to take the field over the final month of the season and put their stamp on the 2012 campaign.
“You always define yourself in November,” Mullen said. “We’ve put ourselves in a great position entering the month of November. This is what separates a good season from a great season or a championship season.”
The defining moments begin on Saturday when Mississippi State hosts Texas A&M in the re-match of the storied Snow Bowl.
“It’s the biggest game of the year for us,” Mullen said.
Indeed, it is. The A&M-MSU game matches up the 16th and 15th-ranked teams in the BCS, respectively, in a battle which will reverberate through the SEC West and possibly into the postseason between two seemingly evenly-matched teams.
In fact, the tilt features the SEC’s two leading rushers: MSU running back LaDarius Perkins (No. 2) and A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel (No. 1). Yep, the top rusher in the SEC is a freshman quarterback, who also leads the conference in total offense.
“He has a great ability to keep plays alive, to improvise,” Mullen said. “They put up huge numbers offensively, big, big stats with lots of different playmakers.”
Mullen, as well as other coaches, said they’ve already watched tape of A&M’s losses against Florida and LSU “more than once,” as both the Tigers and the Gators were able to hold Manziel and the Aggies in check.
However, Mullen wouldn’t want you to over-look the other side of the ball.
MSU’s head coach doesn’t think it will be exactly smooth sailing for Tyler Russell and the Bulldog offense this weekend.
“I think it gets overlooked because of their offense,” Mullen said, “they have a stout defense.”
While the Aggies are new to the SEC, Mullen and his team likely have more familiarity with the new divisional foe than most everyone else in the conference.
This will be the third time MSU has played A&M’s new head coach Kevin Sumlin, having faced him twice while he was in charge at the University of Houston.
On the other side of the ball, MSU’s defensive coordinator Chris Wilson has a strong relationship with Sumlin, calling him a great friend and saying their families are close.
That doesn’t mean, of course, that either will take it easy on the other, Wilson said.
Both Wilson and Mullen expressed confidence in their team to move past the loss to Alabama over the weekend and re-gain focus for A&M, as well the three Western Division games following.
The only reason Mullen wants his players thinking about Alabama, he said, is to put into practice what they learned watching tape of the game on Monday morning.
“We reviewed all the things we did positively, reviewed all the negatives, and hopefully grow on the positives and correct the negatives,” he said.
Said Mullen, “It’s how you attack your demeanor at practice. You come back with great resolve to continue to get better.”
However, it wasn’t just his players Mullen had a message for.
One of the first things he said outside the locker room after the loss to Alabama Saturday night was again one of the first things he said on Monday.
“We need a great home field advantage,” Mullen said. “Our fans have done this all year for us.”
MSU and Texas A&M will kick-off at 11 a.m. central time on ESPN this Saturday.