Mullen gets good look at Bulldogs
Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen, left, shares a laugh with an assistant coach during Thursday's game against Memphis. (Photo by Lance Murphey, AP)
Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen got a chance to take a good look at his entire team during last Thursday's 59-14 victory over the Memphis Tigers.
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By winning the game so handily, Mullen got to evaluate players that may not normally see the field in a season-opener.
Of the 64 Bulldogs that saw action against Memphis, 20 of them were freshmen.
Mullen said the experience young players got in the first game was valuable.
"With all of the players we had to play, you should see a big improvement between game one and game two," Mullen said during his Sunday teleconference. "Now they know what to expect from a game. They've had an opportunity to prepare for a game and then go do it on the field. We expect improvement from all those different players who played."
Two individuals who stepped on the field for the first time for MSU were on special teams in punter Baker Swedenberg from Columbus and kickoff specialist Brian Egan.
Mullen was pleased to see Swedenberg nail four punts inside the 20-yard line and said Egan "did a decent job, not great, but good" with his kickoffs.
Whether one game is enough to prepare MSU to open the Southeastern Conference will be determined in just a few days. The Bulldogs travel to Auburn Saturday to face another set of Tigers, the defending national champion version, at 11:21 a.m.
"It's going to be a huge, tough environment on the road," Mullen said. "We've got to come out, play a top level game, clean up a lot of mistakes we made early in the season and get ready for a game that's going to determine how we do in the SEC this year."
Mullen said the ability to play so many players against Memphis cut back on the amount of touches for returning offensive playmakers such as LaDarius Perkins and Chad Bumphis.
Perkins, who finished last season strong in the backfield for the Bulldogs, had three carries and two catches against Memphis.
"He got his hands on the ball five of the 69 plays we ran during the course of the game," Mullen said. "We were playing so many play that he just didn't have that many touches. You look at Chad Bumphis, who touches the ball once, but it was just how the game shook out. There's no intent on any of that."
On the subject of the five players suspended for the Memphis game due to a violation of team policy, Mullen is taking a wait and see approach with them.
He said it was "a possibility" that Fletcher Cox, Dylan Favre, Blaine Clausell, Chris Hughes and Malcolm Johnson would be available for the Auburn game.
"We'll announce that on the day of the Auburn game," Mullen said.