September 26, 2012 9:00:43 AM
Matthew Stevens - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State University football coach Dan Mullen said his players tried to hard to make the spectacular play in the past two games.
Even though MSU (4-0) defeated Troy University and the University of South Alabama to climb into the national rankings, Mullen wants to see the Bulldogs play with more focus and better discipline.
"It has been a complete lack of focus, thinking maybe we're going to score every time we have the ball, or something like that," Mullen said. "You start seeing guys running around backwards and saying, 'I'm going to try to spin out and go the other way and take it 90 (yards)' and it ends up minus-5. If they'd just hit the hole, it would've been a good play and kept the ball moving down the field."
MSU junior tailback LaDarius Perkins agreed with Mullen's assessment, especially when it comes to younger running backs trying to make a statement with their limited number of touches in a game. Perkins, who has been with MSU for four years, said the running backs will correct that mind-set in the meeting room.
"I know when I was a younger player I wanted to score a touchdown every touch I got because I didn't know when I'd get another one in a given game," Perkins said. "I know they want to hit a home run, but I've got a do a better job of leadership in explaining to them that moving forward 5 yards is good, too."
Mullen said he is using his team's bye week this week to evaluate younger players who haven't gotten a lot of playing experience and to rest veterans in scrimmages when the Bulldogs do 11-on-11 work.
"When we go live reps, there's a bunch of guys that aren't taking live reps this week," Mullen said. "They're going to do individual, they're going to do pass skill, they're going to do some of that group work. We go live 11-on-11, we're going to force a lot of other players to go earn more reps on Saturday and show what they can do."
Defensive lineman Ryan Brown, Quay Evans, and Nick James and defensive back Cedric Jiles and kicker Devon Bell are the only freshmen to play for MSU this season. While the list likely won't grow barring injury, MSU will use this week to build depth for the critical final months of the season.
"This is a big week for the twos (on the depth chart), who are guys that are rotating 20 reps a game," Mullen said. "(John) Banks is going to get minimum work when we go 11-on-11. I know what he can do, and he'll be ready. He's working his fundamentals, he's working in seven-on-seven drills to keep going."
This week is the first time since fall camp that MSU coaches have had a chance to focus on fundamentals with their position groups before they shift their focus back to strategy for individual opponents.
"We know the SEC teams force us to have extreme focus like no other time in your season," Perkins said. "Come next week when we look at Kentucky, we will be prepared for a battle because just them being SEC means to us that they're good."
Consistency has been a problem for No. 21 MSU (4-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) in victories against Troy and USA. Senior linebacker Cameron Lawrence admitted the Bulldogs "have not played our best football game yet."
"You've got to remember these kids are still 18- to-22-year-old kids," Mullen said. "The focus, the maturity, and the focus has slipped. It is hard sometimes. You try to fight against the kids looking up at the
scoreboard and saying, 'Hey coach, we're up big.' All of a sudden a team comes back on you a bunch and you don't feel comfortable about it."