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Turnovers in MSU's scrimmage disappoint Mullen


Matthew Stevens



STARKVILLE -- Context is normally needed for Mississippi State University football coach Dan Mullen to evaluate a spring scrimmage.  


The Bulldogs' fifth-year coach typically understands big plays happen because everything goes right or unbelievably wrong. On Friday, Mullen didn't need context to know a six-turnover effort by the Bulldogs is unacceptable. No further evaluation needed.  


"A lot of sloppy offensive plays and poor ball security," Mullen said. "In terms of the defense, I didn't see any special plays except for a nice pick by Jamerson Love at the end. The rest of it was poor ball security."  


MSU's first- and second-team offenses combined for six turnovers in the two-hour scrimmage. Projected starting quarterback Tyler Russell had four interceptions and two fumbles. Redshirt freshman linebacker Beniquez Brown had two interceptions. 


After a six-touchdown performance with no turnovers last weekend, Mullen was frustrated by the play of Russell, who was 21 of 39 for 258 yards and four touchdowns. 


"I'm disappointed in certain things," Mullen said. "I think he missed some throws today (and) made some good plays today. We're trying to get into the complete game management, which is seeing things out on the field." 


Mullen attempted to explain Russell's mistakes by saying he and his coaches are trying to put the rising senior in simulated situations to prepare him mentally to be a play-caller at the line of the scrimmage.  


"I just threw some random things out that we haven't really gone through before to see how he can handle an in-game adjustment," Mullen said. "I thought he handled that really well. I was just disappointed he missed some throws badly." 


Brown, a former four-star linebacker prospect out of Florence, Ala., rushed for 2,375 yards and 37 touchdowns as a senior in high school. He read Russell's eyes on an interception over the middle and then took the football 28 yards for a touchdown.  


"It was my first day running with the first-string defense, and all I was trying to do was get the ball out and make plays. That's the two things coach tells us to do when we're out there," Brown said. "Now that I'm defense, when I get the ball in my hands I still try to score." 


Brown, who had nine tackles last week in MSU's first scrimmage, was unofficially credited with five Friday. He and fellow redshirt freshman Richie Brown earned significant work with the first team because Deontae Skinner was held out with an injury. Skinner, a senior, is projected as a starter. He wore a boot on his left foot as he watched from the sideline. 


"What I wanted to do today was make sure Richie and Beniquez didn't play together," MSU defensive coordinator Geoff Collins said. "They both played with some older guys. That helped them out a lot because they didn't have to think and they could fly around like the great athletes they are." 


Even without senior LaDarius Perkins and sophomore Josh Robinson due to various injuries, MSU allowed reserves Derrick Milton, Kasey Atkins, and converted wide receiver Brandon Holloway to get a majority of the work. Holloway led the team with 83 yards on 17 carries, while Akins had 78 yards on 12 carries.  


"Holloway comes in and makes a few explosive plays and gets everybody kind of nervous over there," Mullen said. "At the running back position, when you look at how slim that is, I want to see are the guys we're counting on making the plays we need to make. That is a critical aspect." 


Mullen said another critical aspect of the second scrimmage was to get younger players experience with older players.  


"I think you saw a lot of guys getting promoted up and trying to get reps and get rotated in with different groups," Mullen said. "I'd like to have 85 guys ready to go play in the fall, (but) that's probably unrealistic with guys still developing. We've got to get guys in position that are going to be ready go to play." 


MSU is scheduled to practice at 4 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday and at 3 p.m. Friday in preparation for the Maroon-White Spring Game at 1 p.m. Saturday at Davis Wade Stadium as part of Super Bulldog Weekend. 








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