By JOEL COLEMAN
On Saturday night with 1:32 to play against LSU, the Mississippi State offense began to march down the field. Trailing by just two points, MSU head coach Dan Mullen saw his team reach the LSU 29-yard line with 8 seconds left and one timeout in his pocket. That’s when things fell apart.
The Bulldogs were hit with a delay of game penalty, pushing them back to the 34-yard line. Dak Prescott then tried to hit De’Runnya Wilson with a quick pass that fell incomplete. So when Mullen sent Devon Bell out to try and win the game with his leg, he was faced with a 52-yard field goal attempt as opposed to a 47-yarder or less.
Mullen reflected on the game’s critical moments during his weekly press conference on Monday.
“My thought was I wanted to get the ball to the 20 for a field goal,” Mullen said. “In retrospect, we should have just stuck with our guns and got the ball to the 25-yard line which we always talk about (for a field goal try). So the last three play calls are on me.
“The delay of game, that’s solely on me. That really cost us. That was me trying to go 10 yards instead of the 4 yards.”
When it came time for the game-deciding kick, Mullen opted to give the 52-yard opportunity to Bell despite Westin Graves going 2-for-2 in his two shorter field goal tries earlier in the night. Mullen said that decision came down to leg strength.
“I feel really good with (Graves) up to 42 yards out,” Mullen said. “He can probably go a little bit beyond that… For me to ask him to go beyond that is going to get him out of rhythm and out of sync.
“(Bell’s) range is a lot further, whereas Westin, I didn’t know if he could get it there. I don’t know if I put him in that situation, no matter what he did, if he could get the ball there.”
- Mullen discusses Dak
After rushing for 105 yards against LSU last season, Prescott finished with negative-19 yards on the ground against the Tigers on Saturday in 10 attempts. Those numbers were influenced by the three sacks that Prescott took. Through two games this season, Prescott has rushed just 18 times. MSU’s signal caller ran 22 times last year in the LSU game alone.
Mullen explained Prescott’s seemingly different approach.
“I think there were one or two opportunities in the course of Saturday’s game where (Prescott) could have scrambled and made something happen,” Mullen said. “Also, I think there are opportunities where he used to take off and scramble where he stayed in the pocket and made throws.
“It’s not something by design. I just think it’s his development and that he’s getting further through progressions in the pass game that you’re seeing him take off and run less.”
- Wilson practices
After suffering a wrist injury during the game on Saturday, Wilson was back on the practice field Sunday for the Bulldogs.
“He’s going to be fine,” Mullen said. “I don’t think that is going to be much of an issue.”
Against LSU, Wilson caught eight passes for 86 yards and a touchdown. This came after hauling in just two receptions in the season opener at Southern Mississippi.
“We started moving him around because (LSU) was trying to double-team him when he was the single-side receiver,” Mullen said. “Out of that, they started getting out of the double teams. When we started moving the ball, they started blitzing and he started getting one-on-one opportunities.”
- Mullen gives thoughts on Delta State
Mullen began Monday’s press conference by expressing his condolences to those at Delta State University, where earlier in the day there was a shooting on campus that left a history professor dead.
“Our prayers go out to everybody at Delta State,” Mullen said. “That’s always a scary situation.”
The situation brought up memories of MSU’s scare from last month when an active shooter was reported to be on campus. No one was harmed and no weapon was found on the suspect that day, but Mullen remembers the feeling.
“I know it was a scary situation on campus here a couple of weeks ago,” Mullen said. “Fortunately there were no casualties or injuries that occurred from that. On a college campus, or really anywhere, that’s really scary so our prayers are with them over in Cleveland, Mississippi.”
- Game at Auburn to be played at night
It was announced on Monday that MSU’s September 26 game at Auburn will be played at either 6 p.m. or 6:30 p.m. and be televised on ESPN, ESPN2 or SEC Network.
A final decision on the exact kickoff time and network will be made after the conclusion of games this Saturday.