Mississippi State's Dan Mullen walked off Scott Field Saturday evening a happy head coach as he considered the Maroon-White Spring Game the successful completion of spring football for his Bulldogs.
“You know what, I think we stayed healthy (Saturday) which is always one thing you want in the spring game,” said Mullen. “We wanted to put young guys that haven’t been in a situation out there on the field in front of a lot of fans in a real gameday environment.
“We wanted to put them in positions to make plays and I think you saw that early on with Joe Morrow dropping some passes, Robert Johnson dropped some passes, (and) Dak started slow on the offensive side of the ball, but as it went on they picked up. That’s really the big part of this is to get them that gameday, live experience without it being a real game.”
The Maroon team led by Tyler Russell won the exhibition 33-22 thanks in large part by the emergence of Jameon Lewis. They sophomore caught 10 passes for 144 yards and a score, drawing praise from his coaching staff.
“I thought he looked pretty good," Mullen said. "He was getting open and making some plays. That’s what you want because he is a little bit of an older guy, he’s played in the games now and as you continue to do that, we expect you to make bigger and bigger plays.”
Mullen reiterated the game was much more about getting new faces into the spotlight and just to get their reaction.
“A lot of our older guys we didn’t put very much on them (Saturday), but the younger guys we wanted to put it on them to see what they could do,” he said.
The newcomers proved to be up to the challenge with Morrow snagging six catches for 97 yards and a score. Josh Robinson carried the ball five times for 63 yards and a score. Derek Milton had eight carries for 37 yards and a touchdown.
“I thought he did some good things but a lot of things he’s got to clean up and learn how to be an everyday player, every play player and be consistent,” Mullen said of Morrow’s performance. “It was good because now I can teach off of those drops. He came in and dropped his first couple of passes… You’ve got to get that out of your system because the next time you step into the stadium, there’s going to be 55,000 people and even more pressure, it is for real.”
On the defensive side, Quay Evans was credited with three sacks for a loss of 18 yards and six total tackles. Denico Autry also had a nice outing with a sack and four tackles.
“When you split the team up, sometimes it is hard to see," Mullen said. "I’m not sure who he was going against all the time, but (Quay) is another guy with Denico Autry that it is their first opportunity to play.
“In junior college they don’t have crowds like this and I’ve been down to Morton High School and they have big crowds and great programs but not to this level. Hopefully they get some of these jitters out now so the Jackson State game they are ready to go.”
As for Russell’s afternoon, he was 24-for-43 for 312 yards and a pair of scoring tosses.
“I thought his decision making was great," Mullen said. "I thought he was pretty accurate. He was a little late on a throw or two. I remember the one to Brandon Hill, he had a step on him and Tyler was a little late with the throw, but overall I thought he was really accurate for the whole day.”
Russell’s counterpart, Dak Prescott, was 10-for-27 going for 205 yards and a touchdown to his credit. As Mullen mentioned, the freshman started rather slowly but showed marked improvement as the session moved along.
The Maroon-White game marks the end of spring football for the Bulldogs leaving the coaches ready to return to the recruiting trail.
“We're done,” Mullen exclaimed. “Because the spring game's a lot later this year, our coaches are heading out on the road recruiting now. That was it, we're done, unfortunately. Sad day for me. I don't get to be out there on the field with the boys again until about Aug. 3.”