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MSU's Mullen knows improvement needed

September 25, 2011

MSU football coach Dan Mullen ponders his next move during Saturday night's game against Louisiana Tech. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)

After winning an overtime battle with Louisiana Tech on Saturday night, Mississippi State's focus now shifts to another Bulldog opponent in Southeastern Conference foe Georgia.
"It's great to get a win and to battle the way we did an overtime win is exciting," said MSU head coach Dan Mullen. "You have to make plays in key moments of the game and our guys did that. We have a lot of ways we can improve on offense, defense and even the kicking game, so we need to continue to improve next week and throughout the season."
Last season, MSU started its win streak with a win over Georgia in Starkville.
"It was a huge game for us, we were 1-2 going into that game and finding a way to win was a huge momentum swing for us to get us onto a win streak," said Mullen. "It really energized and built a lot of confidence within our guys."
This year, State has already started what they hope to be another long midseason winning streak as they head into Athens, which will be a first for Mullen and many of the players, but the new environment shouldn't change how MSU operates.
"This will be the first time going there for me," said Mullen. "It will be a new experience and it's the last stadium in the SEC for me to go to, but we keep our routine and go through our routine. It will just be the first time for all of us doing it."
One thing MSU will have to focus on doing in Athens is containing Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, who is coming off a 268-yard and two touchdown passing performance against Ole Miss.
Mullen recruited Murray out of high school, so he knows him very well and what he is capable of doing on the field.
"Aaron is a very good quarterback," said Mullen. "Last year, he came in here and had not played a lot, but now you can see he's a veteran quarterback that makes good decisions with the ball in his hands.
"We are going to have to play solid on defense, keep the ball in front of us and hopefully get some pressure on him to rush some of his decisions so he doesn't have time to sit back there and pick us apart."
MSU's offense has appeared to struggle the past few weeks despite picking up the win on Saturday night and if there is one thing that stuck out about the offense, it was its lack of third down conversions. State was three of 16 on third downs against Louisiana Tech.
"It's always a concern because if you convert on third downs you have a chance to win the football game," said Mullen. "On both sides on the ball, if you don't win the third-down battle, one side of the ball is going to be stuck out there an awful lot longer than the other. I think that's one of our biggest statistics that we monitor."
Picking up a first down is never an easy task when going against a good defense, and even though he hasn't seen much of Georgia's defense on film yet, Mullen has seen the Bulldogs on television and has gotten an idea of what they can do.
"At this point, I haven't got to study much of them, but watching some of the games on TV, they are an extremely athletic group," said Mullen. "They are very talented football players. They are always going to be that way and it shows when I watch them on TV."
As the struggling offense prepares to try and rebound against Georgia's defense, many fans made their opinion clear during Saturday night's win about certain play calls with loud boos and if the fans are aware of mistakes, Mullen is as well.
"We have a bunch of things we need to fix up, but we haven't hit the panic button and we're not scrapping anything that we are doing right now," said Mullen. "We just have to execute better. So far this year in the red zone, we've left 42 points out there on the field if you look at not scoring and field goals over touchdowns, so if there is one part we have to really clean up is the red zone offense and that we are getting touchdowns not field goals."
Even with things to clean up and fix, MSU is sitting at 2-2 going into Athens hoping to get back to having a winning record. Next Saturday's kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m. and will be broadcast on Fox Sports South.

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