September 5, 2012 5:20:51 AM
STARKVILLE - A day after downplaying his record against Southeastern Conference opponents and his personal record against Auburn University, Mississippi State University players are suggesting the importance might be a little greater than the fourth-year coach is leading on.
Both Mississippi State tailback Derrick Milton and senior defensive back Corey Broomfield both said Tuesday that the game means something to Mullen and is part of the motivation for Saturday's matchup versus Auburn. Mullen has never defeated the Tigers in his coaching career and pointed out Monday they're the only SEC opponents he's never accomplished a victory against.
"We know this game has significance for Coach Mullen this week and he wants to beat them really badly for a lot of reasons," Milton said. "We want to win it just as badly too but it's talked about this week how big it would be for coach if we won."
This statistic does involve the senior class at MSU as well, who has never beaten Auburn in their career and therefore never started SEC play 1-0 since arriving on campus.
"As a member of this senior class, there's a list of goals that we want to accomplish before we leave here and doing something about never beating a Western Division opponent besides the school up north
[The University of Mississippi] is something we have to do something about," Broomfield said.
In this week's edition of The Dispatch, I look into the balance of the MSU run game in terms of splitting up the carries among the four tailbacks (not exactly an easy task for Mullen and MSU running backs coach Greg Knox) and how it affects the execution of the vertical passing game led by junior quarterback Tyler Russell.
"What I'm trying to monitor is if they look like they need a blow and need to come out but certainly there's a momentum factor to how we ration out playing time among the four players," Knox said Monday. "We feel like with their diverse skill sets, it could be any one of the four backs in a given week that has a successful day so sometimes you have to watch who is having the most success and ride that person and that call."
Auburn's run defense must be a level of concern for Tigers new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder after giving up the fourth-most yards on the ground among 117 Football Bowl Subdivision team last weekend in their 26-19 loss to Clemson University.
"Well, we could tackle - that'll help," Auburn head coach Gene Chizik said with a laugh on his teleconference Sunday.
Clemson ran the ball 60-percent of the time and running back Andre Ellington averaged 8.9 yards per carry on his way to 231 yards. On the fast-track of the Georgia Dome, Clemson was able to tire out the Auburn (0-1) defense for over seven yards a carry on first and second down in their contest Saturday. MSU will hopes to keep the Auburn defense on the field in similar way to last year when the Bulldogs were able to run 97 plays for 531 yards of total offense.
"I don't think overall it was a matter of substitutions," VanGorder said about Clemson's offense Monday. "We ended up defending 87 plays. That's a lot of plays."
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
3. Ho ho ho -- Downtown Open House heralds the holidays ENTERTAINMENT