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Passing defense concerns Mississippi State's Mullen


Danny P Smith



STARKVILLE -- Georgia Tech quarterback Josh Nesbitt isn''t known for his passing ability. 


Yet Nesbitt torched the Mississippi State secondary for 266 yards in leading the Yellow Jackets to a 42-31 victory Saturday night. 


Case Keenum, the signal caller at the University of Houston, does have a reputation for throwing the football with success. 


On Saturday, Keenum was 51 of 76 for 536 yards and five touchdowns in Houston''s 58-41 loss to Texas-El Paso. 


Although Houston went from being ranked 12th to falling out of The Associated Press poll this week, MSU coach Dan Mullen said his team has to be ready to play against a different type of offense. 


"We go from a team who''s leading the nation in rushing to a team that throws 75 times a game," Mullen said during Sunday''s teleconference. 


It bothered Mullen that Georgia Tech was able to get big gains out of the passing game. Nesbitt completed a 65-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas and a 53-yard strike to Stephen Hill. 


Mullen and the defensive staff are trying to figure out ways to sharpen up the secondary with Houston coming in for homecoming at a time to be determined today. 


The Bulldogs are scheduled to return to the practice field today after not working out Sunday. 


"We''ve had teams make some big plays and we''ve gotten ourselves out of position at times," Mullen said. "There have been times we''ve been in position and not made the play, but we''ve got to make sure they are getting enough looks at those things in practice. We''ve got to get that into our practice scheduling and make sure we coach that. 


"We are playing against teams every week that have some talented players who make a lot of plays against our secondary. (The defensive backs) have got to keep coming, fighting and practicing. One day, we''re going to be the one''s starting to make those plays." 


Mullen said having good practices isn''t enough when it comes to MSU seeing different offenses from week to week. 


He said the coaches have to make sure they''re all on the same page during the game. 


"We have to make sure we are communicating to get them into right situations at the right times," Mullen said. "Those are the fixable aspect of things. We have to have plainer communication on the sideline at times of exactly what they''re doing and a cleaner plan of getting those adjustments to our players." 


Mullen believes he has gotten the point across to the Bulldogs to play with effort. Now, they''re trying to focus in on specifics of not turning the ball over on offense and not giving up big plays on defense. 


Even though he has been critical of his assistants when MSU loses games, Mullen understands everything ultimately falls on his shoulders. 


"I''m harder on myself because if my kids give a great effort, then I have to put them in a position to win the game," Mullen said. "That''s my responsibility." 




Kicker switch 


Mullen, who coaches special teams, had to make a change of placekickers after junior Sean Brauchle suffered a pain in his leg. 


After Brauchle missed a 42-yard field goal attempt, junior Derek DePasquale stepped in to handle the kicking for the rest of the game. 


"(Brauchle) felt a little pop in his leg and didn''t feel comfortable," Mullen said. "Sean said he didn''t feel like he had all of the power in his leg to get the kicks." 


DePasquale kicked his first field goal at MSU, a 31-yarder, right before halftime against Georgia Tech. He also booted the extra points after the three final touchdowns. 


The competition between DePasquale and Brauchle has been so close in practice that Mullen has no problem with either doing the kicking. 


"The team has a lot of confidence in both guys," Mullen said. "As soon as Sean didn''t feel 100 percent, it was very easy to go with Derek. You don''t take much of a step backward." 


Mullen said if Brauchle will resume kicking duties whenever his leg is sound enough. 




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