Mississippi State faces the challenge of compacting the organization of a gameplan for one of the best programs in just a few days.
Fresh off its dominating 49-7 victory over Memphis Saturday, the Bulldogs coaching staff immediately went to the film room dissecting the tape of the opening week contest.
“I was pleased with our execution of our team,” MSU head coach Dan Mullen said. “A lot of times game one is dictated on playing clean, doing your job.”
Mullen and the staff may have to revert back to an old schedule that some of them had when they were in non-Bowl Championship Series conferences to fully understand the schedule behavior of a quick turnaround with a Thursday night home game coming up against No. 22 Auburn.
Mullen has experience playing college football games in the middle of the week thanks to his time as an offensive assistant at Bowling Green and Utah under current Florida head coach Urban Meyer and the MSU defensive staff has recent familiarity with the idea as defensive coordinator Manny Diaz came to Starkville from Middle Tennessee State.
“You accelerate things (Sunday),” Mullen said. “You have some things that you’ve prepped before this week started. Over the summer we prepped for it.”
The Bulldogs second-year head coach said his squad would conduct a heavier Sunday practice than in a normal game week where there’s some time to rest.
“I guess you don’t get to enjoy the win quite as much,” Mullen said. “We enjoyed it last night and then put that aside to get ready for the short week.”
One of the interesting aspects to this Auburn game will be what both coaching staffs held out of its schemes on both sides of the ball in order to not give the opponent film to break down. When asked specifically if his gameplan for Memphis was essentially watered down with the Southeastern Conference opener in mind, Mullen suggested the new coaching staff at Memphis had more to doing that than the upcoming opponent.
“I don’t know that it was totally vanilla on both sides,” Mullen said. “We tried to be very base and a lot of that was dictated off not knowing your opponent coming in. We didn’t have a lot to go off of in terms of film from the past.”
Mullen also discussed Sunday the upcoming challenges of the facing one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country in Auburn’s Cameron Newton.
“One of the big things is the length of the play – you have to continue to play,” Mullen said. “You get to go play a Cam Newton that can improvise on his own and can really extend plays after it breaks down.”
Newton was impressive in his Auburn (1-0) debut Saturday throwing for three touchdowns and rushing for two more in leading his team to a 52-26 win over Arkansas State.
"As the game kept going on, I felt my feet settling in," Newton said. "There were a lot of times I thought I could make plays with my feet because of the man coverage."
Newton, a former Florida player recruited by Mullen to Gainesville, completed 9-of-14 passes for 186 yards. He also rushed for 171 yards on 15 carries for the Tigers.
What Mullen failed to mention Sunday was he essentially attempted to re-recruit him as a junior college player this time to Starkville but was unable to woo him away from signing with Auburn.
“Obviously his size and athleticism when he walks in the door wows you,” Mullen said. “He’s got a arm that can probably throw the ball 80 or 90 yards in the air and the ball jumps out of his hands. He’s a very intelligent quarterback and that’s why we went after him at Florida.”