Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen explained Bulldogs may have to start either of the three scholarship quarterbacks Saturday in Little Rock, Ark., when MSU travels to face Arkansas Saturday.
November 17, 2013 2:57:22 PM
STARKVILLE - When asked about the injury status of his quarterbacks, Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen says his a optimistic person by nature. In the same answer, the Bulldogs fifth-year coach admitted he's preparing for the possibility of starting either of the three quarterbacks (Dak Prescott, Tyler Russell or Damian Williams) on the roster.
"If Tyler or Dak are healthy, either of those two would be the starter at this point," Mullen said. "I'm a pretty optimistic person generally in life so I'm optimistic they'll both be healthy this week but I'm not a doctor so that's not my call."
Senior quarterback Tyler Russell got his fifth straight start of the 2013 season and the Bulldogs fifth-year signal caller finished the 20-7 loss to No. 1 Alabama Saturday night 15 of 24 for 144 yards and one interception but was forced to leave the game with a reported shoulder injury late in the fourth quarter.
True freshman Damian Williams saw his first action since a 62-7 blowout victory over Troy on Sept. 21. In what Mullen described as a "unfair situation" the former three-star product from Louisiana finished 0 for 5 and was sacked once while leading the final two unsuccessful drives in the contest.
The last time MSU started a true freshman quarterback was 2007 when Wesley Carroll started against Gardner-Webb in a 31-15 victory. Carroll led MSU with 1,392 passing yards with nine touchdowns in the season that culminated with a 2007 Liberty Bowl victory.
"We trust Damian," Mullen said. "He's gotten reps and played in games previous and he led his team to a state championship last year. As a coach that's a really tough situation to put a true freshman into but I'm proud of how he handled that situation. Didn't bat a eye and did his job when his number is called. Depending on the injury report, he could be the guy, he could be the starter this week."
MSU sophomore quarterback Dak Prescott was ruled inactive by Mullen after suffering a pinched nerve in his left arm in the loss last week at Texas A&M. The Bulldogs fifth-year head coach said Prescott's status wouldn't be evaluated for practice until Wednesday and he was watching warmups in sweatpants over a hour before the opening kickoff.
Mullen did say his staff wouldn't consider using a base wildcat formation with a quarterback such as Jameon Lewis to take the snap from center.
Here's some other tidbits to Mullen's Sunday teleconference:
- I asked Mullen if he was prepared to go for the touchdown when it was fourth and one from the 2-yard-line and he resoundingly said absolutely yes and the Bulldogs already had the play dialed in for the situation.
"I was going for it," Mullen said. "I imagined he thought we were going for it and he decided to put us at third and longer than fourth and short. They're a tough defense and in terms of stuff, fourth and 1 from the 2 or 3-yard-line gives us a array of options right there. It is a tough call but we were going to go for it there and felt good about the play call. Worked out pretty good for them and not for us."
Alabama coach Nick Saban explained his decision to push MSU back five yards and give the Bulldogs another shot at a possible 7-3 lead.
"Well, I think with fourth-and-1 from the 1, the percentages are with the offense," Saban said after the game. "I mean, we go for it every time if it's fourth-and-1 at the 1 and I can't remember the last time we've been stopped. At the 6, the field is shrunk and you have a lot better chance of being successful so we had some big stops down there, no doubt."
- Mullen said senior linebacker Deontae Skinner was dressed for pre-game warmups but the team doctors and training staff never medically cleared from after the pinched nerve injury in his neck he suffered before the game at Texas A&M. Mullen said he spoke with Skinner before the game Saturday to explain to him why would not be active to play.
"I looked at Deontae and said '(our trainers) don't want you to play and told me he could play in the case of a emergency and I said 'well, we're playing Alabama, the whole game is pretty much a emergency for us'. Being a father, I told (Skinner) this is not my decision and you need to talk to the doctors and the trainers because they are the professionals. For me and with my kids, I want to be out there on the field. Me personally, I may make a poor decision with my personal health with my competitive nature. That's why we have trainers there to make sure kids don't do that. Deontae looked at me and said 'Coach I want to play' and I told him 'hey I want you to play too but we're talking about more important things here than that'. I think it was one of those that after (the trainers) told me that, I couldn't imagine as a coach, that I would let him get on the field."
- In a very personal moment, Mullen shared the story of a handwritten letter he got from then-Wisconsin head coach Brett Bielema after the Bulldogs were going through the tragic passing of Nick Bell. Mullen said he doesn't know Bielema, now the first-year coach at Arkansas, very well in a social setting but the letter meant very much to him and he called it "a class act" from somebody else in the coaching profession.
"I really have a lot of respect for Brett...the one thing I really appreciate is we had a player on our team pass away named Nick Bell and I got a really nice handwritten letter with thoughts and other stuff from Brett in that situation," Mullen said. "To have somebody in the profession to take the time out from his schedule, didn't know who I was, not in our conference, to write myself and my team a note was a real class act and I have a lot of respect for him for doing that. Not just respect as a great football coach with all the Rose Bowls but as a man to take the time to do that. That left a mark with me. That'll always stay with me."
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