Mullen focused on present against Auburn

By JOEL COLEMAN
sports@starkvilledailynews.com

It was just a year ago that a once-unranked Mississippi State toppled Auburn to complete its rise to the top of the national polls. As the Bulldogs get ready to hit the road Saturday to tangle with the Tigers again, MSU head coach Dan Mullen said in his weekly press conference on Monday that last season’s game has little bearing on this year’s preparations.
“We were a different team last year and they were a different team last year,” Mullen said. “We played under different circumstances last year.
“Last year’s game really doesn’t play in a lot to this year’s game.”
Mississippi State has defeated Auburn two of the last three times the two schools have met, but the Bulldogs haven’t won at Jordan-Hare Stadium since 2007.
MSU is 6-28 all-time in games played at Auburn, last losing there in 2013 when the Tigers topped the Bulldogs 24-20 in the game that quarterback Dak Prescott received his first Mississippi State start.
It’s no big surprise to Mullen that Auburn has been a tough place for MSU to find success.
“It’s tough to win in the SEC on the road,” Mullen said. “Almost everyone wins most of their home games. We win most of our home games. It’s just hard to win road games in this league and you have to play really, really well if you want to do that.”

  • Mullen prepares for Johnson

Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson has struggled at times this season, already throwing six interceptions. That doesn’t mean Mullen or the Bulldogs will take Johnson lightly.
Mullen discussed on Monday the differences between Johnson and former Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall and expounded on the challenges Johnson presents.
“(Johnson) is a bigger guy and can stand in the pocket a little bit more and throw the football because of his size,” Mullen said. “Nick moved around a lot and had a lot of throws on the run, play action and movement throws, where Jeremy is more of a guy that has that size and stands in the pocket. He has the athleticism to beat you, but he has the size to be a pocket passer as well.”

  • Market to play

Mississippi State senior safety Kendrick Market, dealing with a foot ailment, was held out of last week’s game against Northwestern State as a precaution. Despite the injury, which is unrelated to the torn Achilles tendon Market sustained in the Egg Bowl last year, Mullen said on Monday that Market is on track to play at Auburn.
“We might keep the cast on him another day (Monday),” Mullen said. “But he’s cleared to practice.
“We had a lot of discussions of whether he was going to practice four days this week or three days this week or how we want to do that, but he’ll be playing on Saturday.”
So far this season, Market has totaled 14 tackles. He recorded five in the season opener at Southern Miss and tallied nine in the loss to LSU in week two.

  • Mullen pleased with backup QBs

Against Northwestern State, Mississippi State backup quarterbacks Nick Fitzgerald and Elijah Staley combined to throw for 145 yards, rush for 35 and account for four total touchdowns. While the numbers were impressive, Mullen said Monday that he was impressed with more than just the statistics.
“Their calmness on the field, that’s what was most impressive to me,” Mullen said. “They both graded out as champions, even though they didn’t get a lot of reps within the game. We didn’t have tons of offensive plays, but to me, their confidence in doing what they are supposed to do. They didn’t go out there on the field and try to do too much or try to impress. They went out and played quarterback and tried to manage the game.”

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