Mullen "Eight Win Seasons Are Dissappointing"

JACKSONVILLE -- "I want to first congratulate Northwestern. I know it's a big win for them. I know every win is big for everybody. But I think in talking to Fitz, I've known him for a long time and seeing him after the game, I know how important that was to him. So congratulations to them and how they played today. Their players played very well and deserve to win the game."

"I want to thank everybody at the Gator Bowl and the TaxSlayer. First to TaxSlayer.com and for what they've done for us this week and the great Bowl experience, and the great opportunity they've afforded these kids, and everybody with the staff here at the Gator Bowl, what a fabulous Bowl they've put on, first class operation with everything all the way."

"Obviously, bowl trips tend to be more fun when you come out on top. We had a great time here this week, but we talked about adjusting back to the speed of the game, and you know at times of how we did some very good things during the day to day. Times we made a lot of big mistakes. You know, that stuff happens. You get out of sync. You start to, you see what happens. I mean, you get certain first halves and I think our first five possessions were two three and outs and three interceptions. So that's not a real fast start to a game that we're looking for."

"But I do give our guys credit, because they were focused in, they continued to battle back. They put themselves back into position, and made a couple of critical mistakes at the very end to define the end of the game."

Tyler Russell had three picks, then seemed to calm down and play better but had a bad one in the fourth quarter. What did you see from him? "I mean, just the fourth one really poor decision. He came out, and I talked to him going into the locker room after the third pick. Said go into the locker room, splash some water on your face, readjust your pads and forget that you came out to start the game. Get in the tunnel, start jumping up and down again, get yourself tight and run out of the tunnel again."

"Just that. These are still young kid that we're talking about, they're not pro athletes. I think he started off the game very poorly. I think he was shaken and just wanted to calm him down and say, hey, get a blank slate, clear it, go in the locker room and come out and start this one from scratch. And he did a really nice job."

"Right there at the end, just a poor decision on third down, and then sent us flying around in the pocket, and just threw a ball that he shouldn't have thrown."

The way the team was running in the second quarter was there thought of using Prescott? And throwing the ball quite a bit early, what was behind that? "One, we wanted to come out, and we felt like we could kind of start throwing the ball. We come out and throw that early pick six or that pick six to start the game, then put a great drive together, and we're a little late on the throw to the corner."

"Then we wanted to be able to run the ball. That was always going to be an emphasis, but we wanted to make sure we set it up and didn't go solely on the run to start it off. I thought at times today we ran the ball very, very well. And, you know, the line did a good job up front, and I don't think we got to the point where we got to just really hammer away and continually establish the run falling behind early. But I do think our defense kind of buckled down there in the middle. The offense came back, and we made got right back in the game, just didn't have enough to come over the top."

Can you evaluate the defense, did they keep you in the game the first half but not enough to win? "Yeah, a couple. You know, you look, and you get behind that way early. They gave up some drives but made some big stops in the red zone and created a couple of turnovers, made some big plays. Tied at 20 20, we gave up that big drive, gave up a couple of big plays on that drive."

"But I think overall, the defense played well. I think a couple of the situations on third down where we lost contain on the pass rush and they were able to scramble for some third downs were some key things we have to look at to make sure we're doing the best we can to get pressure with our down guys on the quarterback."

What brought the change to Geoff Collins calling defensive plays? "Well, a couple of things. You know, we'd struggled against some spread teams and tempo teams in the past. So I wanted to try something different, give Geoff an opportunity to call the game. And just see also communication-wise. Because there is a lot that has to go on with rotating the defensive line in-and-out of the game, and getting where you're going with those tempo teams. To be able to make all the rotations you need to make and call the game at the same time with Chris. But what I'll do, I'm going to watch it all and evaluate and see what direction we continue to go on in the future."

After the third-down completion (third quarter) did they suddenly find their rhythm? "Well, you know, they're the tempo team. So they make a big play, run up on the ball and make another big play. That's kind of what they do. And that was a big drive that they had, at a key moment."

"Give their kids' credit, they made big plays when they needed to. We had opportunities. There were certainly opportunities for us to make a lot more plays in that game. Whether it be getting sacks that we missed and they scramble out of the pocket, or dropping a couple of interceptions, dropping pass that would have kept drives alive or kept momentum going in our way. We get down inside the five-yard line and have two false start penalties; I mean all of the things that you can't do, that we had opportunities to take advantage of and we didn't get done today."

What did you see in Russell's body language on the sideline? "You know what, when you look at those young kids, that's what I saw. He was losing a little bit of confidence. That's why I told him to get in the locker room, come back out and start over. I mean, I said my confidence hasn't changed in you. You're in here, we're still going to stick with you, you're still going to have to throw the ball. So get in there and get ready to go again, come out refreshed and go make plays.

"He was off, guys are going to have that…I told him that in the locker room, guys are going to have off-days. Here's the great thing, he had an off-day and there were still some opportunities for us there in the fourth quarter to go win the game. So it was a great learning moment for young guys. And I'm sure there are a lot of, I'm sure Peyton Manning and Tom Brady and Brett Favre have thrown four interceptions and still won a game. So just that mindset of keeping your confidence going throughout the whole course of the game."

Was John Banks not the same after the injury? "Yeah. One, I saw him kind of grabbing his leg and first thing I was scared to death for him. I look up at the instant replay and said well, it didn't look like anything wrong, I mean anything serious. He had a massive gash in the side of his leg that they had to stitch up. And with that, I think he just didn't feel right. He wanted to go back in. But I told our trainers unless he's 100% don't try to put him back in the game."

Will the change in defensive staff stick? "I'm going to evaluate that as we move forward. I mean, I'll see where we're at. We just finished up the season, we'll hit the recruiting trail and use the full evaluation of where we're at and what directions, what changes and tweaks and all those things we have to make. We'll look at next year's team and see what direction next year's team is going to head."

Your overall feelings on losing five of last six games? "Excuse my language, but it sucks. You know? I mean, nobody likes to lose. So our kids put in, everybody puts in a lot of work to go win football games. It was great to win a lot early, it sucks to lose late to be honest with you."

"But we have to do a better job as coaches and we have to make sure we continue to put kids in position to win. Our kids play hard, I love this senior class and everything they've put into this program the last four years. One of the most successful senior classes in school history. They believed in what we're trying to build. The great thing is, eight-win seasons now are starting to become disappointing at Mississippi State. You know, eight-win seasons used to be massive celebrations. And now within our program those are starting to be disappointing ones. That's the direction you want the program headed in."

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