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Pre-game Monday - Mullen concerned about hangover from emotional win vs. Auburn




Matt Stevens


STARKVILLE - Mississippi State University head coach Dan Mullen is concerned his players might struggle getting back to work this week to prepare for its first road game of the 2012 season at Troy University.  


Mullen referenced the 2010 season when a win against the University of Georgia catapulted MSU (2-0, 1-0 in Southeastern Conference) into learning how to deal with the emotional high that comes with victories on the field.  


"We talked about that that sweet taste of victory Saturday will turn into the most sour taste in your mouth if we don't prepare properly this week," Mullen said at his weekly media conference Monday. "If you don't play your A game, if you don't perform, there's no guarantee on any team in this country. You've got to come out and perform week in and week out. You're looking at these 18-, 19-, 20-year-old kids, how they practice is how they're going to play, and the focus they're going to have Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, you can't, there's not a team in the country that can just flick it on and say, here we are, we're just going to perform on Saturday." 


In order to prepare for the environment of its first road game MSU will do the common routine of blasting music over the P.A. speakers out at practice. Mullen said he refuses to make the same mistake he made over 10 years ago while the offensive coordinator at Bowling Green State University when as the 23rd-ranked team in the country, his team lost at Northern Illinois because of mental mistakes due to the atmosphere of the crowd noise.  


"I learned early in my career not to take those games for granted. I go back, it might sound weird, but I was at Bowling Green and we played Northern Illinois," Mullen said. "We were ranked, and it was a big, big game. I'd never seen a lot of crowd noise, I'd never seen a large crowd there before. They sold it out and handed Thunderstix out to everybody in the crowd, and it was deafening, and we had about six false starts because we didn't practice with the crowd noise all week. We got caught off guard, and I'll make sure that never happens to us again. No matter what stadium you're going into, you're preparing for it to be a very hostile environment." 




Lot of questions were directed about junior quarterback Tyler Russell after he became the first signal caller at MSU in the last 11 years to win the offensive player of the week award in the SEC.  


Russell was 20-of-29 passes for 222 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. Russell led the Bulldogs on three touchdown drives in its first four second half possessions as State scored 21 unanswered points to seal the game. He completed passes to nine different receivers. 


"I think that's the evolution of Tyler Russell," Mullen said. "A couple years ago, when he came here, that's what's been expected out of him. You're in such a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately society in the world we live in that they kind of forget that's what was expected out of him. He has developed, matured and grown into that position. Now he is ready to perform at the level everybody expected him to be at." 




Some other nuggets gathered from Monday's media conference are as follows:  




- Mullen said he is confident in the fundamentals and personnel of the people in his kick coverage even after the 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Auburn's Onterrio McCalebb.  


"The kick return for a touchdown, honestly, the two biggest culprits was maybe I put our guys in a bad position," Mullen said. "Cam Lawrence and John Banks both didn't get off a block and stayed on a block too long. I think they assumed we would kick it out of the end zone with the strong wind and all of a sudden got caught and weren't in the right position. We will look at how we're doing it and look at the scheme. You're always evaluating it and making sure you have personnel on the field at the right time with the right guys getting reps." 




- The Dispatch MSU Sports Blog asked Mullen about the eye-opening disparity in the offensive statistics for Troy after the Trojans attempted 70 passes and accumulated 485 yards through the air in a loss to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.  


"A lot of times stats can get that way," Mullen said. "You look last week (and) they ran the ball a tone and won the game. Again, you find the different personalities in teams. I don't think we have seen exactly what their personality is yet. I think ours is growing within our team but with theirs, the two different games that they've been in, you're going to have to see coming into this game what direction they're heading in and really the game can dictate a lot of that as well as the game progresses." 




- After he began his media conference, Mullen gave the media the injury report for the week:  




Sophomore TE Brandon Hill is doubtful for Saturday (ankle sprain) 




Freshman DB Xavier Grindle is out for the rest of the season (torn ACL) 




Sophomore TE Malcolm Johnson is still out (pectoral)  




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.



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