Better late than never and better hot and humid than cold and wet. So said Dan Mullen, anyway, once his Bulldogs finally reached Miami.
The second of Mississippi State’s two planes (the one with most of the coaches and players) was delayed a couple hours, but Mullen and the rest of the Bulldogs still made it to South Florida in time to be greeted by sunshine, men in orange jackets and familiar humid air as MSU prepares to play Georgia Tech in the Capital One Orange Bowl on New Year’s Eve.
“We’re from Mississippi, now,” Mullen said when a local reporter asked how his team would handle the heat of Miami. “Our guys are gonna feel great about the temperature. They’re very thankful.”
They did get a slight respite from the weather, however, as the delay in flights meant a later-than-expected start for State’s first practice. MSU was actually supposed to have had positional meetings in Miami and practice in the sun, but when air officials told them the flight would be delayed by a couple hours, Mullen had the buses unloaded and directed the team meetings right there in Starkville.
Once they finally arrived, MSU went straight to the practice facilities at nearby Barry University, and as of this writing they hadn’t even been to the hotel yet, still on the field finishing up. Players switched around to different areas as groups lifted weights in the weight room, stretched in the gym and finally made their way to the field for team practice.
In those moments, the attention was focused on the Yellow Jackets and their triple-option offense, as well as a defense Mullen considers very underrated. However, the difficulty at any bowl game is striking the balance between fun and work, as players mix beach trips, welcome parties and feasts with film sessions, practices and time in the weight room.
Said senior All-American offensive guard Ben Beckwith, “The task at hand is to get 11 wins and go out with a win in Miami … Everything we do, we’re gonna be thinking about beating Georgia Tech while we do it.”
Said All-American junior linebacker Benardrick McKinney, “We came here to complete a mission. We’re gonna have fun, but we’re gonna focus on the game and worry about the game.”
Both Beckwith and Mullen made a point while talking to reporters on the tarmac to share their respect for the Tech defense, a group Beckwith says they won’t overlook just because of the attention their offense receives.
There will be more to be said about the game later in game preparations, but for now, MSU is ready to enjoy the bowl fruits of a laborious season.
“We’re bringing StarkVegas to South Beach,” Mullen said.