October 14, 2012 1:48:39 PM
STARKVILLE - In his weekly media teleconference, Mississippi State University head coach Dan Mullen said Sunday his program's "major concern" was the players not looking forward a week to a potential matchup against defending national champion University of Alabama.
"It's a major concern and to me it's not the job of the coaching staff," Mullen said. "It's not on the coaches because it sounds like coach talk but we're watching Middle Tennessee State this week and that's our whole focus. Kids have a different deal and it's going to be on the leadership of our team to make sure they remain focused on the task at hand. That task at hand is winning our Homecoming game and protecting our home turf to get us to 7-0. I do think they'll keep that focus on that game and that will trickle down to the young guys."
The 15th-ranked Bulldogs (6-0, 3-0 in Southeastern Conference) will face Middle Tennessee State (4-2) Saturday on ESPN2 at 6 p.m.
Mullen in his chat with local reporters also shared some insight on some of the critical touchdown play calls of MSU's 41-31 victory Saturday night over the University of Tennessee.
- I'll a story in Monday's Dispatch about the 13-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Dak Prescott on a fake draw up the middle to find a completely wide open Marcus Green to make it 10-7 MSU in the first quarter.
"We were waiting for it," Mullen said with a laugh. "I'm sure I get all kinds of e-mails and Twitter about whether I'm a smart coach or not just because if Dak is in we're just going to pound it up the middle. Sometimes we do but there's other things that go along with and it's about when you call it is important. Les called that play at just the right time. I thought our coaches did a great job in this game too. Les called a great game in keeping everything balanced and keeping points on the board early. Even when we were slumping he was able to break us out of that slump."
- On the fourth down call at the end of the game to let junior quarterback Tyler Russell attempt a pass that resulted in a spectacular one-armed catch in the back of the end zone by tight end Malcolm Johnson.
"Our thought was this, there's no way we were going to kick a field goal there because that was only going to put us up six and I would've had to kick off to No. 84 again only up six. We had a discussion about do we just hand the ball off up the middle or do we throw it and I trust Tyler a lot to not throw an interception. So during the timeout, I said 'hey instead of just handing it off up the middle, let's take a shot here. Just put it somewhere where our guy or nobody is going to catch it and that will take up as much time as running the ball up the middle would. If it's incomplete, then they've got the ball with 9 seconds left and have to go 91 yards from our end zone. That was our thought process on that play. He did throw it where almost nobody could catch it and Malcolm went up there and made a one-handed stab in the end zone. Fantastic catch."
- I also asked Mullen about the word "respect" that kept coming out of players mouths once they left the locker room Saturday night following the victory.
"I don't know it it was sent by the coaching staff," Mullen said. "I think it was sent by the players. My worry is our team respects each other and respect themselves, respect our program. That is the most important thing and only thing that matters. I think we have some good players on our team and all they heard all week was Tyler Bray is the best quarterback on the field (and) these receivers are the top NFL players. We have a good quarterback and good guys in the secondary. I think it was a great challenge and they wanted to go out and prove we're not a half bad team and we have some talent ourselves."
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.
2. 'OzLand' to premiere locally Thursday ENTERTAINMENT