By JOEL COLEMAN
Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen might have fond memories of his last meeting with LSU as the Bulldogs put away the Tigers 34-29 a season ago, but as he gets ready for this year’s matchup, the performance of Brandon Harris on that night still looms large in Mullen’s mind.
Harris, now LSU’s starting quarterback, came in late during last year’s game in Baton Rouge as the Tigers tried to rally from a big deficit. He was almost successful. LSU scored 19 points in the fourth quarter, sparked in large part by Harris going 6-of-9 through the air for 140 yards and two touchdowns. Harris had a chance for a game-winning Hail Mary pass, but the throw was intercepted at the 1-yard line as the Bulldogs secured the win.
Mullen recalled the events of last season during the weekly Southeastern Conference coaches’ teleconference on Wednesday.
“He came in during the fourth quarter against us, and I know he didn’t start the game, but he was lighting it up and making throws all over the field,” Mullen said of Harris. “We know he’s a very, very talented player and obviously has another full year of development under his belt. I imagine he’s going to be much improved from where he was last year.”
Saturday will serve as Harris’ second career start. His first came last year in a loss at Auburn when he completed just three of his 14 passes for 58 yards. While the numbers for Harris weren’t great that day, Mullen has seen enough to know Harris will serve as a big threat against the Bulldogs.
“Even though that was the only game he started, he played a bunch during the course of the year,” Mullen said. “So he’s going to be a much, much more different quarterback than we saw in that game.”
- Mullen pleased with offensive line
Rufus Warren, Jamaal Clayborn and Devon Desper now have a little seasoning.
The trio of new starters on Mississippi State’s offensive line was able to get their feet wet last week in the Bulldogs’ 34-16 win over Southern Mississippi and Mullen was pleased with what he saw.
“I thought from start to finish, all three of the new starters handled the whole situation very well,” Mullen said. “We can play a lot better, but they handled it very well.”
Now, the new linemen are preparing to face an even bigger test when the Bulldogs welcome LSU to Starkville on Saturday. While the competition stiffens, Mullen is optimistic that the experience Warren, Clayborn and Desper gained last week will turn into even greater success.
“Hopefully I see a huge improvement this week because now they are used to what game situations are,” Mullen said. “A lot of times, when you’re in practice, if you have a bad play you can do it over. If something goes wrong, you bring the ball back and you go again. A bunch of those guys as backups last year, they’re not always in at the most meaningful times of the game, so right now, you’re in at a meaningful time and you’re the guy that has to make the plays.”