By JOEL COLEMAN
Saturday’s Mississippi State football game has no impact on the Southeastern Conference Western Division standings. The Bulldogs’ nonconference opponent, Troy, isn’t a Top 25 team. The national limelight won’t be on Starkville for a contest where MSU is heavily favored.
Despite all that, Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen says his team will be highly motivated to battle the Trojans as the Bulldogs look to rinse away the sting of last weekend’s loss to Texas A&M.
“I think the biggest thing for us is that we’re really disappointed that we didn’t play that well last week,” Mullen said Wednesday on the weekly SEC coaches teleconference. “One of the things when that happens is that I think the guys are really anxious to get back out on the field and redeem their performance. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing or what it is. I think the guys are a little disappointed in their performance. Everybody’s a little disappointed in their performance last week. So everybody’s real excited to get back out on the field and put a performance together that we’re going to be happy with and we’re going to be proud of what we did.”
Troy comes to town on Saturday sporting a 1-3 mark under first-year head coach Neal Brown. While the Trojans’ record may not be all that impressive, Mullen noted the effort he’s seen out of Troy on film.
“They’re a team that plays really hard,” Mullen said. “I know they have a new coach and you can see they’re buying in to what he wants. I think schematically, there are a lot of guys that are learning the system, learning the offense, learning the defense and all of those things. But to me, if you want to look for a team that’s bought into a new coaching staff, you look at how hard they play and the team certainly plays hard.”
Aside from the opportunity to get back on the winning track, there’s another aspect of Saturday that excites Mullen. He’ll finally be back in front of the faithful fans at Davis Wade Stadium, a place where MSU will play five of their final seven regular season games.
“We’re excited to be back home,” Mullen said. “We get to play three straight home games right now and I think that’s huge for us because three of our first five games have been on the road. So to get that opportunity to get back into your home confines, we’ve got to find a way to continue to improve as a team and continue to take steps forward.”
Mullen talks future at QB
Quarterback Dak Prescott is nearly halfway through his senior season at Mississippi State. Though there remains plenty of football to be played this year, it won’t be long before the Bulldogs are forced to begin preparing for a future without Prescott. Mullen addressed those plans on Wednesday.
“We have some really good young players here at the quarterback position,” Mullen said. “Damian Williams is here and has started games in his career before. He started a game that was a big Egg Bowl victory (in 2013). I know Dak came in at the end, but (Williams) started that game. So he has a little bit of experience. We have three young quarterbacks that have the opportunity to be pretty good with Nick Fitzgerald, Elijah Staley and Nick Tiano. So for us, they continue to train and the issue for us is there’s not going to be that game experience.”
Whether MSU’s next starting signal caller is Williams, Fitzgerald, Staley or Tiano, Mullen said the next man up does have an advantage in the fact that they’ve gotten to sit under the Prescott learning tree.
“The best thing all of them have going is that they get to watch a guy that’s a great player that has had a lot of success,” Mullen said. “They get to see how he prepares and how he carries himself and what he does during the work week to get ready for the game. That’s a great guy to learn from. All they have to do is do what he did next year.”