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MSU turns the page, eyes Auburn Tigers

September 2, 2012

MSU football coach Dan Mullen liked what he saw from the ground game, including running back Derrick Milton (28). (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)

The Mississippi State Bulldogs made a rather successful debut in the 2012 season opener Saturday night.

On Sunday, they turned the page and their focus to the beginning of the Southeastern Conference season and the Auburn Tigers.

Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen admitted Sunday during his weekly teleconference his team has been close, but hasn’t been able to close the door on this week’s familiar Western Division foe.

“We’ve been right there with opportunities to win and didn’t pull it out," Mullen said. "Our guys know how big it is and we always put that emphasis on the first conference game of the season. They will be fired up and ready to play. They are going to be ready to find a way to pull it out in the end this time.”

The Tiger’s opened the season with a 26-19 loss to Clemson on Saturday evening, but Mullen knows Auburn is in a state of transition and could have a few wrinkles for the Bulldogs this week.

“I think they are finding themselves right now," Mullen said. "They have two new coordinators, they’ve got a new offense and a new defense. They are still working out the kinks and trying to find out what their identity will be this year. We could see something similar with some new things that we didn’t see.”

While Mullen readily admits there are things the Bulldogs must improve upon, he did see a couple of trends he would like to see continue.

“We try to get them in position to make plays and I think our staff does a good job of that, then it becomes their athletic ability to go make and play,” said Mullen of the two interceptions returned for scores against Jackson State. “We put them in position to do that and they were able to do that. Obviously anytime your defense can make plays and score points, that’s going to be a huge, huge deal for you and hopefully we get a bunch of defensive scores throughout the season.”

While no running back put up staggering statistics, Mullen enjoyed what he saw with the ground attack.

“I think all the guys ran pretty well, so that leaves you with the comfort to rotate them in and out of the game,” Mullen said. “You saw some explosiveness from them because they were fresh. When a guy got on a roll, we just let them keep playing. You will see a lot of all four of them this year.”

The Bulldogs host the Tigers Saturday at Davis Wade Stadium with the kickoff set for 11 a.m. It's the SEC opener for both programs.

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