Mullen knows MSU has some work to do
Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen watches during the first half of Saturday's game against UAB. (Photo by Dave Martin, AP)
Mississippi State still has work to do to become the football team it wants to be.
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The 21-3 win over UAB got the Bulldogs to where head coach Dan Mullen wanted them and that's back to .500, but he feels they have a long way to go. However, he feels the win will make practice a little less difficult.
"It was great to get a win," said Mullen. "It's a lot easier to sometimes teach off a win, because you have a lot of issues, a lot of things we need to get fixed from the game (Saturday) just like every game this season, but it's easier to do it when the kids have a smile on their face and feel a little confident."
Having practice maybe being a little "easier" could help MSU as it prepares for Southeastern Conference foe and the No. 15 team in the nation, South Carolina. The Bulldogs and Gamecocks meet Saturday (11:21 a.m.) at Davis Wade Stadium.
Since MSU seem to play only one half of football in Birmingham, Mullen knows they will have to play all four quarters this week.
"We'll be back in SEC play this week with a really tough opponent," said Mullen. "Obviously, the challenge this week is going to be much different. We're playing one of the top teams in the nation. We're going to have to execute cleanly, not just for half of a football game but every single snap of the game."
Offensively, MSU's first half against UAB was one to forget, but they rebounded and had a strong second half with Tyler Russell taking over at quarterback. Mullen feels Russell provided the spark they were needing, but the team also played much cleaner in the final 30 minutes.
"We just made plays," said Mullen. "We had the opportunities to make plays in the first half and we didn't make those plays. In the second half, we were real good on third-down conversions, didn't have a lot of negative yardage plays and just executed much cleaner across the board."
Russell, who threw for 166 yards and three touchdowns, seemed to be the key to the Bulldogs victory.
"Tyler did a great job," said Mullen. "He got rid of the ball, managed the offense well, was very accurate throwing the football, made some good decisions and then our guys made plays once they had the ball in their hands."
Even though Russell had a standout game and led the Bulldogs to victory, Mullen isn't down on his starting quarterback Chris Relf.
"I thought Chris played fairly well," said Mullen. "The issue was, and it wasn't just one person, across the board, dropped passes, missed block and negative yardage plays."Â
Relf, who threw for 46 yards on six passes, seemed a little frustrated during post-game interviews and feels the coaches should trust him more.
"He knows we have some trust in him to make decisions and to get the ball to the people who need to get the ball," said Mullen. "I think Chris and everybody on offense was frustrated especially in that first half."
With a quarterback controversy possibly brewing, Mullen isn't focusing on that as much as he is getting all his players ready for next Saturday's game.
"I want to see everybody improve on a daily basis," said Mullen. "If we're not a better team after learning some issues and corrected problems from the UAB game, then we can't expect to finish the season the way we want to."