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A Softer, Gentler Mullen Says Good Things About Freeze Pre-Egg Bowl

Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen has spent three years needling and gigging the fans and coaches at Ole Miss, er, I mean “that school up north.”  So it was a bit surprising yesterday when he had only pleasantries to share regarding the job first-year coach Hugh Freeze is doing in Oxford:


“It looks like, to me, that Hugh has their guys playing hard.  They’ve been playing real hard and battling right down to the very end in most of their games this season.  We expect a four-quarter fight…

It looks like they’re on the right path.  They’re playing hard.  When I look at my team, what I want anyway, is when I turn on the film I want to see a team where you have all 11 guys on the field playing really hard.  If you do that you have the opportunity to win.  I’ve seen their guys play hard this year.  As I evaluate programs — I don’t know if I’m an expert — but he has them going in the right direction.”


Now, are those kind words a product of Freeze’s own nice guy reputation?  Possibly.  He’s a hard guy not to like.

But it’s also possible the Mullen spent his first three seasons trying to send a message that his program — not Mississippi’s — was the premier football program in the Magnolia State.  Now, having won three Egg Bowls in a row and on the verge of yet another bowl trip, he might believe it’s time to make sure his team takes the Rebels seriously.

MSU snapped a three-game skid on Saturday against Arkansas and can still finish 9-3 with a win against Ole Miss.

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More Pass-Happy MSU Hungrier In 2012

Dan Mullen is his upbeat, usual self when describing his 2012 Mississippi State squad.  In fact, he thinks last year’s struggles have aided his team on the attitude front:

“Now, as I look at it from the previous two years, I think there is a little bit more hunger for the guys.  Even though we’ve made it to a bowl game, won a bowl game and won three straight Egg Bowls, nobody is patting anybody on the back around here, which happened last offseason.  This is a little more edge to our guys to take that next step forward…

Our focus is how we’re going to improve, how we’re going to be different from last year.  Last year wasn’t good enough, so we have to be very different.”

Meaning?  Mullen suggests — after studying the passing games of Oregon and Oklahoma State this offseason — that the Bulldogs will open up the passing game now that Tyler Russell is set to take over full-time duties at quarterback.  “You have a quarterback who throws the ball well, and an experienced group of wide receivers,” the coach told The Jackson Clarion-Ledger.  “So, as we view things, you’re looking more to throw the football than you have (in the past).

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MSU Fans Feel Good About The Future

Fresh off a 9-win season and a Gator Bowl whoopin’ of Michigan, Mississippi State fans are feeling pretty good about the state of their football program.  Oh, and winning two straight Egg Bowls hasn’t hurt either.

But it’s not just fans who feel good about MSU’s future.  With record-setting ticket sales, a healthy bounce in fundraising, a $25 million football facility in the works, and a possible stadium expansion coming soon, AD Scott Stricklin is walking a little taller, too:

“It’s gratifying to see kind of this belief that, if you took away some of the glass ceilings that are out there, and some of the preconceptions about what a place is or isn’t, and you say, ‘What if we think we could do anything, what could happen?’  It’s pretty neat to see pretty cool things happen.”

Not bad for one the SEC’s traditional bottom-dwellers.  The Bulldogs’ resurgence proves that with the right coach, upward mobility is possible in the SEC.

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Buyout Should Keep Nutt’s Seat From Becoming Truly “Hot”

Kyle Veazey of The Jackson Clarion-Ledger doesn’t get it.  He doesn’t get why people keep listing Ole Miss’ Houston Nutt among those coaches perched upon hot seats this fall.

To the outside world looking in, Nutt’s third season in Oxford resulted in a 4-8 record — not good.  In addition he’s dropped the last two Egg Bowls to Mississippi State and the ever-talkative Dan Mullen.  Making matters worse, his 37-man signing class and his decision to grab Jeremiah Masoli both brought bad pub to Mississippi’s program and the SEC (where rules have since been put in place to nix others from doing likewise).

But there’s one reason Nutt likely won’t really be on the hot seat this fall and Veazey — as he initially pointed out in May — brings it up again today: Nutt has a $6 million buyout.

That’s $6 million for Nutt.  Depending on their contracts, Nutt’s assistants might need to have a year or two bought out, too.  And if Ole Miss decided to do all that, they would still have to pay a new coach’s buyout from his old school and create a package lucrative enough to lure in a good replacement.

So is Nutt’s seat truly hot?  Probably not.  But is it the hottest in the SEC?  That’s a different question and Nutt would likely rank pretty close to Georgia’s Mark Richt in that category.

Whether he’s the six million dollar man or not, Nutt needs to do some winning — especially in the Egg Bowl — if he wants to get fans back on his side and get his name off of next year’s “hot seat” lists.

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Mullen Still Talking At The School Down South

Dan Mullen is like a talking doll for reporters.  Want a good quote, just pull the string.

When told this week that the last MSU coach to win his first two Egg Bowls was Allyn McKeen back in 1939 and 1940, Mullen quickly quipped, “We plan on partying like it’s 1940.”

Mullen also said yesterday that he believes State will have an advantage playing in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford on Saturday.  Why?

“The game is being played in the state of Mississippi,” Mullen told The Jackson Clarion-Ledger.  “We’re Mississippi State.  We represent the state of Mississippi.  So, a game being played in this state, we consider it one we should win.”

What a needler.

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