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Sunday Talk with Dan Mullen - MSU coach talks Russell/Prescott, 4th down plays, Devon Bell and yes...finishing


Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen calling a timeout in the Bulldogs 24-20 loss at Auburn Saturday night.

Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen calling a timeout in the Bulldogs 24-20 loss at Auburn Saturday night.



Matt Stevens


STARKVILLE - After having time to sleep on Mississippi State's 24-20 loss at Auburn last night, Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen spoke on topics that ranged from quarterbacks to kickers. And yes...the word 'finish' was also a major topic of conversation again.  




Here's what the fifth-year MSU coach had to say in his weekly teleconference with local reporters:  




On what he means by "finishing"? 




"It can mean a lot of things. You have to finish plays, which means you finish out the play. Don't just schematically on defense say 'I have my gap' but once you have your gap, get off the block and then make a tackle. Say 'okay I'm in deep third (coverage)' but have enough thought to ask yourself is that in relation to where a receiver is? Then you need to go find a receiver and make a play on the ball. Hey, I made a block but ask yourself 'did I make a block long enough to stay on the block?'. Hey, I hit the gap running the ball but ask yourself 'Am I picking my legs up enough to finish the run to get the big run?' Hey, I ran a out cut but ask yourself 'did I really throw my defender away, make the catch and make a play after the catch for my quarterback?'. Hey, as a quarterback, 'am I making the right check and carrying out the right reads?' As a team, when we create a turnover and have momentum at midfield, ask yourself 'is this going to be our best drive in the game at this moment?' Or it could be that we're we have our back to the wall and we have a chance to finish a drive to get to midfield. On defense, if we have them pinned deep, this is the most important opportunity to get a three and out, to finish a game. Those are all examples of finishing a game. There's million of different examples." 




On if changing quarterbacks from Russell to Prescott has disrupted first month of the season: 




"No. Obviously injuries hurt because you've got good players not playing for you. That's part of the game. I'm sure all teams deal with injuries, maybe us more than some especially with all the critical injuries we've had at critical positions. Quarterback is one. Secondary is where we're coming in with such a young core and one of our three veteran leaders has suffered a injury. That hurts you more than other things but that's part of the game." 




On the thought process of going for it on 4th and short inside MSU's 30-yard-line in the fourth quarter: 




"I was thinking about teaching our guys how to finish a game. Here's an opportunity for us to go finish it on offense. The looks they were giving us out of that formation, we were confident we would have a good play out of that situation. I wanted to take some pressure off our defense. I wanted to put some responsibility on the offensive line. That's probably more of veteran unit on our team so we felt like we had a good call. We made some great defensive stops but I didn't want to rely on our young defense to win the game for us." 




On the offensive lull in the second half: 


"It was us making mistakes right there. We had the ball at midfield with great field position and didn't capitalize to score touchdowns on those drives. When you're playing in the SEC, I don't think you're going to count on 98-yard drives. But the two opportunities when we started on the plus side of the field, we should've scored touchdowns and didn't. That's where the game was lost." 




On Dak Prescott:  




"Overall I thought Dak did pretty well. He missed a couple of things here and there. I thought he played with a lot of poise and never was overwhelmed by any of the situations he was in." 




On the confusion of starting QB announcement between Russell and Prescott:  




"Dak found out right before the game (but) Dak assumed he would be starting the whole week. Under Dak's assumption, he was going to be the starter coming in here last Sunday because the question marks with Tyler. I know the assumption is they don't know who the starting quarterback is. Dak knew he wouldn't be told till game day but he had to prepare to be the starting since last Sunday. And he'll prepare to be the starter today." 




On the misinformation on the announcement and Russell warming up with the first team:  




"Yeah. I wanted to make sure he was warming up and ready to go. The decision was that Tyler was not cleared for contact. He was cleared to do stuff but not for contact. We got him with a top spinal doctors in the country and evaluated him right before the game. He said 'hey, I just don't feel comfortable with him going into a game with contact right now'. He's comfortably cleared to run, throw and do some stuff but we're not going to put a young man's health in any sort of danger." 




On Devon Bell's struggles from 30-39 yard field goals but proficient from 40 yards and beyond:  




"Devon is a big effort guy and kicking is a skill. That's something we constantly talk about: Is the skill related to the effort? Sometimes he starts trying harder and harder. Well, kicking a field goal is kind of like swinging a golf club. The harder you try to swing when you get frustrated, the more sideways it's going to go. As a effort guy, he's got to stop the effort and focus on the skill. It's sometimes hard to do for a young player. I love his mentality because if he misses a kick, he's out of his mind but he wants to go harder, harder, harder but sometimes you have to work on the skill aspect and not the effort." 




On if the swing of the leg for him is different from 30 yards than 45 yards out?: 




"No. Because he has such a strong leg. He has a very strong leg. With him, it's that consistency. He just needs to have a nice, smooth consistent leg swing. That leg swing will make the field goals. Sometimes he's trying to kick a 50-yard field goal with every attempt with a powerful leg swing. The problem is he doesn't need to do that even on a 50-yard field goal. He doesn't need to kick it like a kickoff every time." 




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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