Mullen talks outside noise/criticism and more

Opening statement:

Obviously it’s going to be a tough week for us. You get a short week, heading out against a very good BYU team on a Friday night. Plus late night kick. I think it’s 9:21 our time, so it’s going to be a different challenge, a different style of challenge for our guys.

They’re a handful, they have an excellent football team, very, very aggressive defense, guys that fly around to the ball, give you a lot of different blitz looks, high, big pressure team, come at your from a lot of different angles, a lot of different coverages, trying to confuse the quarterback and a lot of movements on the defensive side of the ball.

Offense, they’ve got a six-year senior quarterback. He’s suffered some injuries, but is obviously a great winner, great competitor, he can run, throw and beat you a lot of different ways. A tailback that is a big-time player and some tough matchups at wide receiver, so a great challenge for us against an excellent football team. We have to get our players ready to go, we have to play at a very, very high level and execute at a high level in all three phases of the game.

I think our kickers, they’re excited to go out there and kick in Provo. They feel like they’re going to get a little extra pop kicking with the altitude. I think it’s an exciting game for kickers.

Getting players ready for altitude:

I don’t that it has much of an affect on you to be perfectly honest with you. I think it’s more in your head than anything else. I don’t think it will be a big issue for our guys.

How do you change up schedule with short week:

You kind of loss a day. We practiced last night, kind of our Sunday wrap up practice. Today’s Tuesday, so Monday disappeared on us. There’s no Monday this week. Then we’re practicing at night, just with the game time. We gain a little bit more time, preparation, during the day.

Highs and lows, preventing lows heading into this week after Auburn loss:

One, they’ve got to put it behind them. Being a young team, it can help in some ways and it can hurt in some ways. It depends on them and the attitude and the leadership of our older guys, how the handle it and facing adversity. The best way I know how to deal with adversity is to get back to work. Since I’ve been here, that’s always been our kind of deal. We’ve faced all kind of highs and lows the eight years that I’ve been here. You deal with the high, you get back to work. You deal with the lows, you get back to work, so that’s the mind-set we’ve had with the guys on the team.

Anybody you compare BYU QB Taysom Hill to:

He’s a unique player. Maybe like Tim Tebow in that way, he’s a physical runner, will yourself to win guy. He’s not going to make dynamic plays running the ball until all of a sudden he breaks into the open field and no one catches him. He runs physical and you think you’ve got him in the pocket. He really shows up on third-and-4 or the game is on the line. He just finds a way to scramble, stay alive. Sometimes he’ll tuck it and run, sometimes he’ll throw a pass and beat you that way. He’s got that it factor as a quarterback.

Will Kivon Coman play this week:

We’ll see. He didn’t go yesterday, but we’ll see as the week goes on how he’s going to be.

Different kickoff guy, because of Logan Cooke’s knee:

He had the knee issue and he didn’t think he could kickoff, so we had to make a change there. It should be easy, but they’ve been banged up. Logan was dealing with the knee, Westin’s been dealing with some back issues. He didn’t practice the whole two weeks of the bye period. He practiced I think one day. We’re trying to get those guys healthy and get them through to be able to function in a game.

On drops from WRs, is it mental or something else:

I don’t know. I think it can become mental in the course of one game. I don’t think it becomes mental in the course of an extended game. Because you look at a guy like Fred on Saturday that just gets frustrated with himself because he’s a perfectionist and wants to do things right and he’s a leader of the team, team captain. He can really get himself frustrated. Like a lot of guys, I think when you get frustrated with things, you go harder, get back to work. Catching the ball’s a skill, so you’re not going to go harder catching the ball, you’re just going to do your skill. I think sometimes dropping a ball can get you frustrated because you want to work so hard and it can hurt you.

During time at Utah, was there a game with BYU that stood out:

We had two of them. We had a 3-0 game that was for the Mountain West Championship in Provo. It was in the middle of like a blizzard. I’m definitely exaggerating, check the history books, but it certainly felt like it was about 20 below zero during the middle of a blizzard. The next year, College GameDay was at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Utah. The last game I coached at Utah, we had the Festival Bowl. With a minute to go, the entire student section was already on the field. There were Tostitos being thrown everywhere, it was the first non-BCS team to go to a BCS bowl that day. Both of them were pretty memorable games.

See relentless effort when watched Auburn game on film:

Our effort is fine. You look at the second half of the game, we come out in the second half and outscore them in the second half. It’s not like guys are saying, ‘Hey, I’m good.’ It’s learning the maximum level of strain. They play with great effort, but I also think there’s a strain level that you have to hit that sometimes guys have to figure out how to play at that level every snap. I watch older guys, some of them do. Younger guys do sometimes, not other times. You can get after them all you want and say, ‘Is that as fast as you can go?’ You show them two plays in a row, one they’re going a little bit harder than the one before. In their mind they didn’t notice that, whether it’s their thinking, whether they’re not sure of their assignment, whatever it may be, there’s something unconsciously that does that. With a lot of younger players, that happens.

Learning curve for a young kid:

“You never know because a lot of those are independent things. You coach guys that are just born with it. That’s all they know. There’s some guys that take two to three years to really learn to maximize. You look at a lot of these guys, most of them were the best players on their high school team. They didn’t have to maximum strain themselves to be successful in high school because they were physically more gifted than most of the people they were playing against. That’s not the case. You’re going to play against an Auburn team and they have talent at every single position, they have five-star players everywhere. You’re strain level has to be maximum. When you’re a young player and you haven’t had to play that hard every snap and you’ve always still been successful, even though you think you’re pushing yourself harder than you’ve ever pushed yourself before, you still have a lot more you can go and you can give and maximize yourself. That just comes with development.”

How did Ced Jiles do on Saturday:

He did OK. I didn’t see errors, you just saw him getting himself back into it. He played some man coverage and he kind of played off some. I think he played a little bit more conservative than he’d like to, but just getting his feet wet a little bit on the field.

Philosophy on when to be patient and when to take guys not performing out:

We rotate a lot of guys. That’s why you see it. For us, we rotate tons of guys out there on the field at a lot of different positions. We tell them, ‘Hey, I’m going to watch and the harder you go this week, the more reps you might get next week. You might get another role, you might get a couple more reps on the special teams.’ There are so many things that just kind of go on on the scene that a regular person watching a game. Nobody’s watching the fold on kickoff, but that’s a critical, critical role in how you fit and how hard you go. Left guard on punt is not a big celebrity position, but it’s a really, really important one. See what happens if our left guard wasn’t out there one play, probably the game would turn pretty quickly on you. We tell them, ‘Hey, you go hard, you’re going to get a couple of more opportunities. If you’re given an opportunity and you don’t take advantage of it, you’re going to have some taken away.’

Did the team respond the way you wanted in Sunday’s practice:

Yeah. With the short week, the schedule’s kind of a little different, trying to figure it out and get comfortable with that. I thought our attitude was good.

Third down lack of success:

If there was one thing, that’d be pretty easy because you can fix the one thing. When it’s multiple things, you’re trying to fix multiple things. Are we protecting the quarterback the right way? Are we making the right calls in the right situations? Are we getting looks we expect to see? If not, why are people playing us a certain way on third down? There have been a wide range of things going on. A lot of it comes down to execution. There are a lot of moving parts. You’ve got 11 guys. If 11 guys do their job every play, you have a chance to be successful. If 10 do their job the right way and one makes a mistake or goes the wrong way or doesn’t use good technique or one of those things, your chances of success drop dramatically. It’s that clean execution of everything that we do.

BYU’s red zone success vs MSU’s lack of it:

One, again we have to execute down there. We’ve had some misreads, missed blocks, poor protection, dropped passes, you name it and we’ve checked the box of what not to do in the red zone. So for us, we’ve got to execute better. The challenge with them is when you have a quarterback like they have down there, that’s another weapon in the red zone. It makes them a very, very dangerous team. They have an excellent running back. They have size on the outside at receiver. Then, if you try to take that all away, they have a guy that can make it happen on his own at the quarterback position. To be honest with you, when we have great red zone offenses, that’s a good recipe for it right there.

Nick Fitzgerald passing attempts being up there:

Part of it is how the game is playing out, what we’re doing and who we’re trying to get the ball to out there on the field and spread it around a little bit more. I think probably at this point of his career, he might throw the ball a little bit better than Dak did at this point of his career. Dak was developing as a passer at this point of his career. Probably all of the above with those things.

Not having guys that are gone, did you expect a slow start:

Yeah, well, you know what, you never know what to expect. I’ll be honest, you can’t expect anything because you never know what to expect of how guys are going to respond to situations and how guys are going to perform. I think there was certainly concern when you lost all the leadership. We’ve built this program on a developmental program. You look and there are eight senior starters we expected to have out on the field that we haven’t had on the field really this year. I don’t know that we expected it, but there were certainly a lot of questions in my mind coming in as to how guys would respond and how quickly guys would develop and grasp onto roles, especially early on in the season.

Preparing for not having that veteran leadership:

You’ve got Will Coleman. You’ve got Tolando and Ced with injuries. It’s football. A couple of years ago, you go back and we had a really young football team that got devastated with injuries. This was only three years ago. We had to start three quarterbacks throughout the season. You had a young team and you were like, ‘Okay, we’ve got a young team so it’s going to take some time to develop these guys.’ Then, all of a sudden, the guys you needed out there were injured, so we started slow then started to build at the end of the season and went on a huge winning streak after that. That happens sometimes. I want to win every game. You go in that locker room, everybody wants to win every game. They are in there working to go win every game. In reality, Knute Rockne didn’t win every game. I think very few people have gone through their four-year college career, even players, and won every game. Even though you want that, you’re going to have to deal with adversity at some point. That’s just how the guys deal with that and what their response to that is. The best way to deal with adversity to me is to buckle it up and go back to work and try to get better. One of the goals we do with the guys, if they can figure that out here, they are going to have a chance to be real successful in life because they are going to be facing adversities throughout their life. Nobody’s life is a cakewalk. You deal with adversity all the time in life. If you’re going to sit and mull over your adversities and think, ‘Woe is me’, you’re going to realize it’s going to get worse or it’s certainly not going to get any better. If you get back to work, you’ve got a chance to fix it. Those are just life lessons that these kids get to learn.

Dealing with the negativity the players see on Twitter/Facebook/etc:

It’s noise. There is so much more noise on the outside. It used to be that you guys would write an editorial. Now, everybody writes one. I guess it’s like calling plays. Everybody can call a play. You talk about coaching stuff and check my Twitter, coaching doesn’t seem real hard. I guess if you check my Twitter, the editorials aren’t that hard either. Everybody can write one. Honestly, the kids and what they have to do is just block it out. I remember my dad, when I was a kid, I’d go play a game and he’d be like, ‘Why are you doing this or why are you doing that?’ I’d say, ‘How do you know what I was doing? Were you at practice all week? You didn’t have any idea what was going on out there. You didn’t even know the game plan.’ One of the things you have to tell them is, when you’re in that room, everybody knows in that room we’re sitting there studying that film. You know if you did well. You know if you played poorly. You know if you gave great effort. You know that you can improve. The hard one is all the noise on the outside. It’s tough. Some guys struggle with it more than others. It’s like, ‘This is happening and that is happening’. The reality is right here. You go turn on the film, sit in the meetings and go out to practice. The reality hits you in the face every single day of where we’re at and what we need to do to improve, everybody in the building. What you have to do is learn to live in the reality and not in the perception world. Live in the real world of what is actually going on.

Is this your most challenging job since you’ve been at MSU:

I don’t know. It was a challenge a couple of years ago. I know that. Every year is different. There are different challenges. I’ll say this. The challenge with all the other stuff is the expectations around here have changed. I think when I got here, the expectations were that if we could go to a bowl game every once in awhile, that’d be great. That’s certainly not the expectations within our program now. i guess if I was doing a press conference here eight years ago, it was trying to change what the expectations in the program are, and we have. Now, these young guys, I’ve kind of been through good and bad. I remember being in the locker room my first year at Kentucky. We got a big win and pushed our record to 3-5. You should have seen the kids dancing in the locker room. I tell our guys that now. The expectations of the players have changed. Mine, we’re still working and trying to improve and trying to develop players, but I do think that they expect or have bigger expectations or pressure from the outside or whatever, both from themselves and outside, to perform. That makes it challenging, but every year brings a different challenge. This year is just a different challenge. Last year was a challenge. The year before that was a challenge. What are we, five games into the year so far? Go back two years ago and we were dealing with the challenge of being No. 1 in America and dealing with being the No. 1 ranked team and the challenges that that brought, Every year just is a different challenge. Our job is to develop players, keep them focused and try to get them to perform to their best on Saturday.

Do you feel talking with fans that you’re competing against the expectations of the past:

I don’t feel that. I’m looking at how can we find a way to go beat BYU this week. Now, I think I have to be aware of what goes on for all the players on the outside and that stuff. We’ve had some great years here since I’ve been here. We’re going to have a lot more great years while I’m here and this year might end up being one of those years. You never know how it’s going to play out. All you can worry about is focusing on this week’s game and improving this week. Worry about how hard can we go and how well can we execute the play that we’re running right now. It’s our preparation. Do we have the right game plan? Are we putting guys in the right position? Are we executing at a high level? Are we practicing with the intensity we need to improve as a player. All of those things. Are we going to play a better game this week than we did the week before. Are guys improving or are we making the same mistakes? Those are things that we have to worry about. If you get caught up in too much of the big picture of everything on a daily basis, then you’re a wisher and not a wanter. A wanter is going to go do something. A wisher sits there and dreams about what it could be like. A wanter gets up and gets it done.


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