Bulldogs receive ample rest prior to big game
The Labor Day weekend did provide the No. 20 Mississippi State Bulldogs some welcomed rest after opening the season at Memphis last Thursday.
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Following a 59-14 blowout win over the Tigers from just across the Tennessee state line and playing two days earlier than most of the NCAA was considered a good thing by MSU head coach Dan Mullen.
"I think playing Thursday night has allowed us to hopefully get some rest especially with a day off school (Monday)," said Mullen. "It allows us to get some extra work done, and gave our guys a chance to get away longer which is a big advantage."
Even though they dominated Memphis, Mullen isn't going to take it easy on his players.
"It's great winning a game and having a lot of teaching moments because you get after them a little harder after a win," said Mullen. "Because when you yell and scream at them after a win, they're still thinking in the back of their mind, 'we still won the game. If we can win the game making mistakes and we improve those mistakes, look how much better we can get,' and I'm very excited about that."
Against Memphis, State's special teams had a few mistakes that Mullen referred to as "glaring errors," but overall he was happy with their play as they held the Tigers to only 17 yards per return on 10 kickoffs.
"I thought we had great effort on special teams," said Mullen. "I was pretty pleased with our execution."
As for those "glaring errors," Mullen isn't concerned.
"Those are easily fixable," said Mullen. "It's a lot easier to fix those type of issues of where you field the ball than it is whether or not we're straining going hard covering kicks."
The big win over Memphis has given the Bulldogs high expectations of themselves, but even despite a record breaking night, they are focused on improving.
"The guys on offense are not patting themselves on the back because they set school records," said Mullen. "In their mind it's how can we get better, how can we execute at a higher level, how can we be cleaner and more efficient."
Defensively MSU held Memphis to short drives, but did allow them to score twice.
"We gave up way too many yards, didn't cause enough three and outs, gave up some long drives, they got in the red zone twice and scored," said Mullen. "Those are things the older guys are going to jump on the younger guys for because that isn't acceptable with our defense."
One offensive player that seemed to catch the eye of many people was redshirt freshman Jameon Lewis. Lewis scored two touchdowns against Memphis including an 80-yard touchdown pass, but Mullen wasn't as impressed as some.
"There's a lot more to the game than catching a pass and breaking a couple of tackles and running to score," said Mullen. "You're not going to get away with (mistakes) in SEC play. You have to be much more fundamentally sound."
Many believe Lewis' performance might give him more of a role in the Bulldog offense, but Mullen thinks the opposite.
"I see his role decreasing unless he improves in practice and is taking care of the football and doing things the right way," said Mullen "If he has a good week of practice I think he'll have the opportunity to play. If not, his role will decrease because he has to perform at a high level every snap."
MSU will begin SEC West play on Saturday, and despite having a successful 2010 with a bowl win, the Bulldogs have only won two SEC West games under Mullen. However, he doesn't use that as an incentive to get his team ready.
"Our incentive is we have to win games to win the SEC West," said Mullen. "Our goal is always to win the West so we don't pay much attention to that."
Despite his 2-8 SEC West record, Mullen can take some pride away from it as the two games he has won is against in state rival Ole Miss or as he refers to them "the school up north."
"If I win only three SEC West games after this year, I still hope it's against the school up north," said Mullen.
State's first SEC opponent will be the defending national champs who struggled against Utah State in week one. Mullen has ties to Utah State as he and Aggies head coach Gary Anderson coached together at Utah in 2004.
Mullen said he and Anderson talked prior to the season about Auburn and Utah State's preparation for playing there in their season opener. Mullen also talked to Anderson Sunday night.
"I talked to him briefly," said Mullen. "It's tough after such a tough loss for them that he was obviously really disappointed."
Mullen didn't say what he and Anderson talked about, but with MSU playing Auburn on Saturday one can speculate Auburn was brought up.
No injuries have been reported and Mullen said, "we're pretty healthy" so all the players that played in Memphis should be available for Auburn.
As for the five players who were suspended for the Memphis game, there is no word on whether they will be available for Saturday or not yet. An announcement on that will be prior to the game.