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Productivity in red zone important for Bulldogs on both sides of ball

October 31, 2012

Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen knows it may take more than one or two touchdowns to defeat the Texas A&M Aggies on Saturday.

After watching the Aggies put up 63 points in a victory over the Auburn Tigers last week, Mullen said the Bulldogs had be ready to take advantage of every opportunity in the red zone to score.

"If you get into the red zone and you don't score touchdowns, you are going to have a hard time winning that game," Mullen said Wednesday during the Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference. "That goes for our defense as well. If we get down and hold them to field goals and no points at all, we put ourselves in a much-better position to win the game. Red zone scoring become huge factors when you play conference games."

Texas A&M leads the Southeastern Conference in scoring offense with an average of 45.5 points per game. That's almost 5 yards better than Alabama's average of 40.6 per outing.

Mullen believes the key to knocking the Aggies off that pace will be for his defensive line to get pressure on quarterback Johnny Manziel, who leads the league with 793 yards rushing.

"I want pressure every play," Mullen said. "I want them to get to the ball and get a sack. We are getting good work on the defensive line and the guys are playing well. We are getting a lot of young players and are still growing into their roles on the team."

Other than senior defensive tackle Josh Boyd, the Bulldogs start sophomore Kaleb Eulls, sophomore Curtis Virges and junior Denico Autry along the defensive front.

When it comes to defending Manziel and the Aggies, Mullen said time of possession won't be the most important statistic.

"(Texas A&M) wants to run as many plays and get snaps as much as possible," Mullen said. "They are not concerned about time of possession at all.

"It's important that we create some drives with the offense, control the tempo of the game and not keep throwing our defense out there. We do need to control the clock."

Good week of practice

Mullen has been pleased with the way the Bulldogs have responded to their first loss of the season.

At least in practice, the MSU players have come back with a business-like approach.

"It's been a long time since we've lost here," Mullen said. "Once they got over the initial shock of it and got back to where we are as a team, which is a team that works hard and plays with relentless effort, we've had one of our better weeks of practice this season with the focus and attention."

Mullen said the leadership of the team has been a key to keeping everyone on the same page.

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