Mullen, Bulldogs return to practice after open week, begin BYU prep

MSU and BYU will meet for the only the fourth time ever, the first time in Starkville since 2001.

Posted: Nov 7, 2017 8:30 AM

STARKVILLE, Miss. (WTVA/MSU Athletics) – Mississippi State returns to the gridiron this Saturday when the Bulldogs (3-2) host BYU (1-5) at 11 a.m. at Davis Wade Stadium. MSU head coach Dan Mullen previewed the matchup at his weekly news conference Monday.

The game will be televised by the SEC Network.

Head Coach Dan Mullen

Opening Statement…
"It's great to be back at home. We haven't been at home in about 28 days, which is kind of unusual. That's how the schedule panned out for us this year. Last time we were at home, it was an electric atmosphere; our fans gave us a great home-field advantage. That's so critical in this league. Hopefully we have a great turnout for the game and an electric atmosphere and a great home-field advantage to work to our benefit. It's going to be a tough game, playing a team we played last year in what was a double-overtime battle, so we know how physical they are. This team has had their back against the wall. They've been in some tight games, close games. They've struggled a little bit, but they've played great defense. They've got some veteran guys over there, big and physical guys on defense. They do a great job stopping the run and forcing you to execute up and down the field. Offensively, they've got their quarterback back, which is a huge benefit for them with a very veteran offensive line. It's going to be a huge challenge for our guys this week, so we need to have a great week of practice coming off the bye. Hopefully the guys are mentally and a little physically fresher and get ready to go. Hopefully we've got a huge turnout with our fan base and a great home-field advantage for us."
 
On senior defensive back J.T. Gray
"He's doing a little bit more than he's done in the past for us on the field. I think he's getting more comfortable growing into that. He's a very physical player. He has the ability to make plays in the open field, and he plays the game physically with great speed and physicality. We expect him to be a playmaker on the field, and it's good to see him improve."
 
On how receivers Jamal Couch and Reggie Todd approached practice during the bye week… 
"I thought they both had a really good approach to practice, of working hard and doing what we hope they do and what we expect them to do. As young players, they can't be, 'Hey, I did good for a couple days, so I'm okay now.' It is a long, hard journey – the path to success. To see them be successful, we need to see them continue to grind and continue to improve and continue to grow up and move up that ladder. It'll be good to see them continue on that path. Hopefully you're going to see more and more of them and more production out of both of them."
 
On "trophies" given for creating turnovers…
"No. It's cool. I think we created the Juice Boys thing where everybody cheers for the kickoff and guys are getting juiced on the sidelines a couple years ago. I've seen a lot of people do that, too. Good ideas. Some people take ideas from other people. We have nothing with that yet."
 
On BYU's quarterback/running back tandem from last season…
"It's tough because their quarterback's been hurt. He's a guy that was their quarterback before and played a bunch for them, so he's got veteran experience. He's got an offensive line that's pretty solid in front of him. To get him back, they're going to be more comfortable in what they do and be able to stay a little bit more balanced with the passing game and the threat of the passing game with him back in the game."
 
On junior receiver Malik Dear's injury status and update on other team injuries …
"Chances are, we'll redshirt him at this point, but I'll meet with him today. We expect Gabe [Myles] back and Traver Jung back, so that's a couple starters. Martinas [Rankin], I'm not sure yet. Cory Thomas, we're not sure yet. I'll check and see. We haven't practiced since Wednesday, so I'm waiting to see until we get on the field today and tomorrow and see what Dan [Jacobi]'s report is."
 
On filling the hole in the offensive line created by senior Martinas Rankin's injury…
"We have some flexibility, obviously not the flexibility we want, but we could potentially move guys around. We have different guys who can play different spots on the line. You have Greg [Eiland] there; Elgton [Jenkins] has played out there before him. You have rotation at the center you can do. There's a bunch of different combinations we could use. Right now, you only have one senior, so you want to take your time and develop your depth there. Injuries are not allowing us to do that."
 
On the consistency of receivers Jamal Couch and Reggie Todd
"You've got to do it 10,000 times to know what you're doing. They're both guys that were a little bit raw coming out of high school, and so they're both developmental guys that have a lot of talent and ability.  It just takes a lot of work – of them, understanding how to be a wide receiver. They have the potential."
 
On improving the discipline of the defense during the bye week…
"We had the opportunity to get back to some basics and take your time on some of the basics of stuff. Some of the big plays that we're giving up are missed assignments. Defensively, if a guy goes the wrong way, there's a gap there. Sometimes it might not get exposed on a play; you might get away with one. The offense just called a play to not take advantage of it. Other times, they do. If they find that gap and there's nobody standing in the middle of the field when they're supposed to be, it's a pretty easy throw and catch for a touchdown. We just spent time on the guys' basics, communication, talking and comfort level of making plays."
 
On creating big plays during kick returns…
"It's a lot of different things. It's really the guys blocking. You've got to have a returner that trusts what's going on, but you've got to be really disciplined in blocking and what you're doing. It depends a lot on who you're playing. Opportunities you get sometimes are good. In my years of coaching, we've only led the nation in kick returns once, 2003 at Utah. Unfortunately, I think we had one game where we had a bunch of kickoff returns and we hit three of them. You really don't want a bunch of kickoff returns in a game. But we did end up getting a lot of yards and that put us up statistically-speaking. It's guys executing it up front and the returner trusting it, and then depending on the situations of the game, how many opportunities you get."
 
On junior defensive lineman Grant Harris
"I think he's just grown and matured right now, as a junior. When we recruited him, I expected a bunch out of him, and it maybe took a little bit longer to show what he could do. This year, fortunately for him, he's continued to stick with it and continued to work. You're starting to see him be productive and make some plays."
 
On BYU's five-game losing streak…
"The turnovers have hurt them. Once of the things you've got to look at is they've had some self-inflicted errors. Take away those self-inflicted errors, and they don't struggle. What if they show up here and they don't have any self-inflicted errors? I've coached long enough to know that when you're watching film, you can say, 'Okay, are they struggling, or are they making some correctable mistakes? What happens if they show up at your place and correct all those mistakes, or you go play them and they correct all those mistakes?' It's a very different team that way. That's kind of hurt them. They've still played really good defense, and getting their starting quarterback back could be a big benefit for them. I think we'll see a different outfit than what you've seen the last couple of weeks."
 
On working on fundamentals during the bye week…
"A bye week allows you time to do things you might not have time to do when you're worried about the game plan, the checks or how we're doing this. Their defense is very different than what we see in practice against ourselves. Offensively, when you're doing that, a lot of the reps now are, 'How are we going to block?' or, 'These are the routes we're going to run.' You're game planning. The bye week allows you to take time and say, 'Okay, we're not worried about how we're blocking this, this and this against that team.' We can really just worry about ourselves and our fundamentals."
 
On how to minimize false start penalties…
"Stay on-sides. Hopefully being at home helps. I hope they have seven false starts our crowd inflicts on them. It's true that the crowd and the atmosphere at Auburn created that. We have the opportunity to create that at home for us."
 
On senior linebacker Dez Harris' success after returns from injuries…
"Not as a player, because I always thought that he had that potential to become a great player for us. He had a great personality. The question was, does he have the mental fortitude to go through the adversity of coming back from multiple injuries to get here. I thought there were times where I thought he might hang it up and say, 'This might not be for me.' If there was with him, he was able to fight through it and push himself through it, and I'm sure that right now he's very happy that he has."
 
Jr. QB Nick Fitzgerald

On the similarities from last season's game against BYU and what he sees ahead…
"They kind of run some base defense with a few crazy blitzes here and there. It's going to be a lot similar to what it was last year."
 
On how the offensive line has reacted to the absence of senior Martinas Rankin
"They're young, but they understand that it's go-time now. It's real; it's time to play. They've got to step up. Last week was a bye week, so I got a ton of reps and they got to work on their chemistry. I think we'll be just fine."
 
On the development of receivers Reggie Todd and Jamal Couch
"They're doing well, really well. They're big guys. They're just a problem for defenses. We need them to step up and start making plays, and they'll be a big part of the offense."
 
On needing to regroup during the bye week…
"I think it was good for us. We got to work on our own thing. We don't have a team that we're playing against. We don't have to stress to be game planning, just more of going out there to practice and work on yourself. Just kind of get your head right. We got to take a few days off and come back rested and ready."

On watching film during the bye week…
"I looked over a little bit here and there, but really I just recharged my batteries and relaxed, refreshed to get back ready today."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 113876

Reported Deaths: 3238
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7894177
DeSoto693279
Harrison512983
Jackson450384
Rankin389486
Madison381293
Lee351479
Forrest300778
Jones289184
Washington256499
Lafayette248343
Lauderdale2437134
Lamar224238
Oktibbeha200854
Bolivar200477
Neshoba1842111
Lowndes178362
Panola169139
Leflore165887
Sunflower160949
Warren154355
Monroe148172
Pontotoc146119
Marshall141229
Lincoln138957
Pike138256
Copiah136936
Coahoma124936
Scott124929
Yazoo121733
Grenada121638
Simpson121249
Union117425
Tate116039
Leake114640
Holmes114460
Pearl River112959
Itawamba112225
Adams107343
Prentiss104819
Wayne100821
Alcorn98712
George97918
Covington97026
Marion94642
Tippah88922
Newton85627
Chickasaw84026
Tallahatchie84025
Winston83321
Hancock81628
Tishomingo80041
Attala79026
Clarke74351
Clay68421
Jasper67917
Walthall63827
Calhoun62212
Noxubee59617
Smith59116
Montgomery54323
Claiborne53716
Tunica52917
Yalobusha52614
Lawrence51214
Perry48723
Carroll48012
Greene47318
Stone46414
Humphreys42816
Amite42113
Quitman4196
Jefferson Davis40511
Webster37013
Wilkinson33720
Benton3335
Kemper32215
Sharkey28314
Jefferson27510
Franklin2403
Choctaw2056
Issaquena1074
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 155915

Reported Deaths: 2674
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson22988375
Mobile16788315
Tuscaloosa10235140
Montgomery9978197
Madison922894
Shelby727463
Baldwin661569
Lee651765
Marshall437249
Calhoun422461
Etowah421450
Morgan407135
Houston371734
DeKalb336029
Elmore317353
St. Clair289142
Limestone279730
Walker275593
Talladega263635
Cullman239925
Lauderdale218042
Jackson212515
Franklin203231
Autauga203030
Colbert198731
Russell19283
Blount191125
Dallas186327
Chilton185832
Coffee173211
Escambia172230
Covington171429
Dale166551
Chambers134343
Clarke133617
Pike132713
Tallapoosa131387
Marion107129
Barbour10129
Butler100240
Marengo100222
Winston91913
Geneva8617
Lawrence83732
Pickens83618
Bibb82514
Randolph82016
Hale75830
Clay73612
Washington73412
Cherokee73114
Lowndes70428
Monroe64510
Henry6436
Bullock63917
Crenshaw60330
Perry5856
Fayette56913
Wilcox56412
Conecuh56013
Cleburne5518
Macon53020
Lamar4745
Sumter47221
Choctaw39012
Greene34216
Coosa2033
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