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Pre-game Monday: Dan Mullen blames himself alone for conservative offense in opener



Matt Stevens


STARKVILLE - While it doesn't appear the system of play calling will change at Mississippi State University, head coach Dan Mullen wants all of the blame placed on him - and nobody else.  


The Bulldogs fifth-year coach blamed himself again Monday for not taking shots deep down the field in the 21-3 loss against No. 13 Oklahoma State University. 


Mississippi State had four completions of 10 yards or more in the first drive of the first quarter and then Tyler Russell was intercepted on a tipped pass and then the Bulldogs just had four more for the final 50 minutes of the contest.  


The Dispatch MSU Sports Blog asked Mullen Monday at the Seal Family Football Complex if he'd be taking over the play-calling duties from offensive coordinator Les Koenning and here was his response:  




"I always take responsibility for all the play calling on offense," Mullen said. "'I'm a offensive oriented coach. To me that all falls on my shoulders. I have a lot of input on the offense. As the head coach that kind of goes on me. I do think in looking back on it, I do think there were times we could've taken some more shots down the field and we had some good one-on-one matchups and didn't take as many shots." 




Russell finished the game 10 of 16 for 133 yards and a interception before being taken off the field with a concussion in the third quarter. MSU backup quarterback Dak Prescott finished 7 of 17 for 89 yards and a interception. Seven different receivers caught a pass but one of them wasn't starting wide receiver Joe Morrow.  




"Sometimes you want to get that first first down," Mullen said. "When you look at when we had success, it was our first first down was off a big play and then we had success instead of grinding out that first first down to get in the flow of the game. We just didn't finish them. The game kind of played out the way we went in wanting it to play out. If you go in at halftime, obviously very disappointed because I thought we could've scored 17-21 points in the first half. We needed to finish drives and getting guys in the right situation to make plays to finish drives as coaches. To keep them out of their tempo game, it played out how we went into it wanting. I didn't get us to finish those drives and put points on the board. We had the ball twice inside the 10-yard-line and if we score touchdowns there, we have the ball down 21-14 with six minutes left to go. If you have told me, we would've been in that situation at the start of the game, that would've been perfect." 




The 6.7 yards per attempt vs. Oklahoma State Saturday wasn't close to the lowest at Mississippi State in the Dan Mullen era. The Bulldogs have earned a lower number in that statistical category, which measures big plays in the pass game, 25 previous times with MSU 7-18 in those contests. In its 10-7 victory at the University of Florida in 2011, MSU won the game with just 3.7 yards per game and 33 total passing yards.  




"That's something we need to address and as we continue to move forward, we will address trying to take advantage of those and get them called," Mullen said. "It wasn't that we didn't get them called but it was when we get in this situation, let's make the call. I did a bad job of waiting too long at time to get in that situations." 




With Russell's status unknown for Saturday vs. Alcorn State (2:35 p.m., CSS), it becomes unknown how aggressive MSU's offense will be with sophomore Dak Prescott behind center going forward. Mullen said bluntly Monday the basics of the MSU offensive scheme will not change because of Prescott taking the snaps.  




"It's a great opportunity for him," Mullen said. "It wasn't like 'Oh goodness. What do we have to take out of the gameplan? What can't we call?' It was 'hey Dak is in. Dak you just go run the offense.' Stepping into the huddle, that confidence he brings and stepping into the huddle, the leadership he brings there wasn't a panic in any of the coaches and not a panic in any of the players. He has a lot of trust in his teammates." 




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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