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Pre-game Monday: Mullen's message to MSU - 'You always define yourself in November'




Matt Stevens


STARKVILLE - When asked what he'd take away from the 38-7 loss at No. 1 Alabama, Mississippi State University head coach Dan Mullen pointed out that this upcoming month will help define how Bulldogs fans perceive the success or failure.  


"Well, you always define yourself in November, to me as a team, of what you're going to do and how you're going to perform to close out the season," the Bulldogs fourth-year head coach said. "We've put ourselves in great position during the month of November. Now this is what separates a good season from a great season and a great season from a championship season, how you perform in the month of November." 


The difference for No. 17 MSU (7-1, 3-1 in SEC) is they now must re-evaluate themselves following a 38-7 loss at the No. 1 University of Alabama and make sure corrections are made before a losing streak occurs in Starkville. Essentially, the idea is to evaluate if the Tide are simply that much better than everybody else in the Southeastern Conference. 


"We haven't lost very often recently," Mullen said. "What were the determining factors so we can point and we can correct them on all of those issues. So we watched the film this morning with the guys, we had a team meeting and we go through and review all the things that we did positively, all the things we did negatively." 


One of those negative aspects is the special teams, of which Mullen is personally responsible for, had two turnovers and a blocked field goal in the loss at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mullen figuratively put on his special teams coach hat to explain the corrections that must be made before No. 16 Texas A&M University comes to Davis Wade Stadium (11 a.m., ESPN). 


"Everything, you're constantly teaching," Mullen said. "You're either getting better or you're getting worse every single day. So we're constantly working on every one of those techniques, individual responsibilities. There's a lot of different things, there's eleven guys that have to execute perfectly on the play is what you need. And if you have a breakdown a lot of times it will be glaring, especially against good football teams." 


One of the concerning elements on Saturday were the scenes between senior leaders Johnthan Banks and Cam Lawrence seemed confused during the two touchdown passes by Tide quarterback AJ McCarron.  


"They were both looking confused as to 'where is the third guy?'," Mullen said. "That is more of that anything else. Those were the little things where on the touchdown passes we just don't cover anybody and have a guy completely lined up on the wrong side of the field." 


MSU's defensive challenge this week is freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel as arguably the SEC's most athletic signal caller and the third-most passing yards (277 pass yards per game).  


"What A&M is doing is very similar to what coach (Kevin) Sumlin's done at Houston, but it's more tailored for their quarterback, Manziel," Mullen said. "He's a guy who can beat you with his arm, but also he can beat you with his feet. He's a guy who creates and keeps a lot of plays alive in the passing game as well as the run game. I believe he might be the leading rusher in the SEC. That says a lot." 




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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