September 7, 2011

Mullen talking Tigers

The 16th ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs will have their first test of the season this weekend traveling to Auburn to face the defending national champions.

The Tigers have won 16 straight games and three straight times over MSU.

"There is no better judge for how the season has a chance to be than opening up at the defending conference and national champions to see where we are going to be," said MSU head coach Dan Mullen. "If you want to become a championship team you have to beat those types of teams. We will have our hands full with the team with the longest winning streak in the country this year."

Auburn escaped last season's meeting in Starkville with a 17-14 victory. The Bulldogs blew multiple opportunities in the contest that could have changed the outcome of that game and the landscape of college football.

But instead of analyzing the 2010 contest too much, Mullen stated that he would show his team those missed chances so they would take advantage of every opportunity this weekend on the road.

"We are a very different team this year and they are a very different team this year," Mullen said. "We had some opportunities to win that game and we didn't. As everybody saw last week, the Auburn football team knows how to win football games no matter what the situation. You are going to have to beat them for 60-minutes and we were close last year. We missed a couple of plays that could have flipped the game our way. We have to make those plays this year to win it and that's really all the reference we use of last year's game."

State had an offensive outburst in its opening week 59-14 win over Memphis. The Bulldogs racked up a school record 645 yards on offense including 405 in the first half alone. MSU scored six touchdowns of 26-yards or more against the Tigers.

"I think a lot of our explosive plays come from a little bit of experience on the offensive side of the ball," Mullen said. "When we have an opportunity to hit an explosive play, to complete a pass putting the ball in a great location on a deep ball or catch the defense off balance, I think the experience that our offense has is resulting in making those opportunities instead of just missing those opportunities. I think it is huge. You're going to have a hard time being successful if you think you're going on 12-play drives in the Southeastern Conference. You have to have some explosive plays to score points in this league so it was great that we could do it and hopefully we can continue to have some big plays this week."

Quarterback Chris Relf was solid in his senior debut. Relf completed 13-of-21 passing for 202 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also picked up 51 yards on the ground on 13 carries averaging 3.9 yards a tote.

"I think the thing that Chris adds to the running game back there is you've got to pay attention to him," Mullen said. "A lot of teams when you're in the I-formation and everybody is focusing on the tailback. When we have Chris back there and Vick (Ballard) as well as the other backs like LaDarius Perkins in there. That's a bunch of guys you have to pay attention to and you can't just focus on stopping the one. That really opens things up and people just can't lock on Vick Ballard. They've got to pay attention to everything else and that allows Vick to really excel."

With news coming out late Tuesday night regarding Texas A&M joining the Southeastern Conference, Mullen addressed how the Aggies arrival should not hurt their recruiting efforts in the Lone Star State.

"We recruit a little bit over in that area in Houston," Mullen said. "We have a lot of good connections with our staff over there. I don't think we would change how we recruit. It might make us a better option for kids in that area but it's not going to change how we recruit it."

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