At 1 p.m. today, Dan Mullen will meet with reporters for his weekly press conference. No. 20 Mississippi State hosts No. 3 Alabama on Saturday at 2:30 on CBS. MSU beat Missouri on the road last week while Alabama beat LSU at home.
Live updates from Mullen to follow.
Mullen is here. Opens expressing emotions over the passing of freshman Keith Joseph.
“We just ask everybody to keep the Joseph family in their prayers,” he says. “Nothing more devastating is ever going to happen to you as a coach, as a football team or as a program.”
In remembering Joseph, Mullen brags on what a great student he was, a 4.0 GPA, great student coming out of high school. Said he was an incredibly hard worker and very talented. He would have been the scout team player of the week every week if they hadn’t decided they had to give it to other people, too.
As for trying to move forward, Mullen says based on his experience, football can be cathartic and provide an escape.
“For all of these young men, football is their safe place in the world,” Mullen says. “Anything going on in your life, for a lot of our guys, when they can step on the football field, a lot of things disappear. It’s just them getting to play football.”
That said, Mullen recognizes there is a game to play this week. He knows Alabama will be a great challenge.
“They don’t give me a vote,” Mullen says. “They’re the best team in America.”
Mullen says MSU has improved every week the last month. Now, with Alabama up?
“We’re going to have to take another huge step forward this weekend.”
Mullen joked, but he’s serious, that Alabama has more five stars in some position groups than MSU has on its entire team.
Looking back at last year, Mullen says MSU played a little tight in the first quarter and a half. “Almost too perfect,” he said.
Mullen says he takes responsibility for that, he should be making sure guys are ready for that situation, for what was, at the time, the biggest game in school history.
“In those situations, the last thing you ever want to do is play uptight.”
Mullen says he doesn’t anticipate that being a problem now. For one thing, he says, players weren’t sure they’d have an opportunity for a game this big after the way the season started.
As for the offensive line, where there were a couple injuries, Mullen says he thought the group did well working through those. Not sure what to expect this weekend, but he said Thursday he anticipates left tackles Rufus Warren and Elgton Jenkins both being available.
As he looks at the talented Alabama defense, which does a great job getting sacks and interceptions, Mullen says one advantage they have (beyond all the five-star players) is that they often play with a lead. Makes things a lot easier.
On defense, Mullen says Chris Jones played the best game of his career against Missouri. Jones was named SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week for his performance. Mullen said his development is one that has been under a microscope because of the attention around his recruitment, but, “it takes time.”
Says Jones has learned what it takes to be a football player and play with technique within a scheme. His play lately is an example of that.