Junior Mississippi State De’Runnya Wilson expected his offense to score on the Razorback defense Saturday night. But 51 points in four quarters? And being one of two receivers tallying 10 catches? Not so much.
“I thought they was a little bit better, man,” Wilson said of the Hogs’ defense after Arkansas lost 51-50 at home. “They really played me really tight.* I’m just happy that the gameplan was to get the ball to the receivers in the open field, throw swings and block the perimeter.”
After a game filled with dramatic scoring swings, the postgame scene in the Mississippi State locker room was a predictably upbeat one. The Bulldogs had just survived one of the greatest duels by opposing quarterbacks in SEC history, with Dak Prescott and Brandon Allen combining for 969 total yards and 14 total touchdowns.
Emotionally, Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen likened the night to jumping out of a plane and “pulling the rip cord four hours later.” He added: “I think it was two of the best quarterbacks in America battling out there on the field today.”
Below are more excerpts from Mullen’s press conference. I’ve boldfaced the more Razorback-related comments:
What a football game. What a football game that was. I tell you what, that was big time ball. Both teams, as impressive of a quarterbacking performance I think as you’re going to see in college football on both sidelines. We talked to our kids about finishing. You know, everything we do from the start of January through off season conditioning, spring training, summer conditioning, training camp all season, it’s about competing. Every time you compete, you finish. You finish and finish and finish. Our strength staff, unbelievable job, having that team ready at this time in the season to go finish a game. Our defense, I told them we need to go get a turnover on that last series. I felt a turnover. Don’t stop, don’t stop believing.
Don’t stop fighting for every inch, then it’s going to happen. Even right there at the end, make it a yard longer, make that field goal longer, continue to battle and we found a way to block the kick to get a win. It’s pretty special, pretty special for this team. So proud of our guys. Great football team in that locker room, great football team of guys who care about each other, play hard for each other, and compete in everything that they do.
Arkansas outscored Mississippi State 21-0 in the third quarter to go up 42-31. What were you thinking during that span?
Well we kept talking, we came out, we said at halftime we didn’t come out and do a great job. We gave up a late touchdown at the end of the first half and I thought that really gave them life. Then we come over and turn over in three straight possessions. The guys, there’s no panic, I mean it was a great job. The coaching staff does a really good job. Our assistant coaches on offense, all the guys on offense coaching on the sidelines, just getting them focused. Because we’re looking to them – they hadn’t stopped us, all we did was stop ourselves by turning it over three times.
A great job by Brian Johnson and Billy Gonzales, the whole offense coaching staff, said “Just stick with the plan, don’t panic, we don’t need to force the ball down the field. Just run our offense. Get back to executing. As long as we don’t turn it over, we’d be moving the ball up and down the field, so don’t change what we’ve been doing. Just stick with the plan and keep going.
Same thing on defense you know, no panic, just stay keep, stick with the plan, keep coaching hard, keep trying ways to make plays and we did.
What did you tell your 11 guys when Arkansas attempted the last-minute field goal from 29 yards aways?
Well, make sure we had 11 because when you’re right in those situations, it’s silly, things can happen. We kept saying, “Hey, as long as we have a play, you know, win. Win every single play. Compete on every single play. The pressure was on their kicker. Not on us. The pressure was on him and we just go make a play and we did. We were able to block the kick on him…
Have you ever won a game like that before?
I don’t know. I think we’ve won some crazy ones in my time. Craziest wins in the last play of the game – I think Bowling Green, Northwestern, or something like that. We ran a 2 point play… We beat South Carolina on a block field goal to go to the National Championship game at Florida. That’s 17-16. I guess. I don’t know.
I tell you what, that’s pretty special. I’m sure you coach long enough you get them, but that’s got to be up there with one of the great finishes I’ve ever been involved in, if not the best.
What kind of emotions were you feeling the entire game?
I never jumped out of a plane, I wanted to when I was younger- to be a sky diver… I imagine it’s just like jumping out of a plane and we just pulled the ripcord here four hours later. I was in freefall for about four hours. I’m guess that’s probably similar to what that emotion feels like.
You’re going through all that stuff. You know, it’s a long game though. We were that way, we were up 31-14, I felt great about things. We were making some big plays… They did a great job of getting that touchdown right before half. I thought, you know we could have stopped them there. We even got the ball with a little time and drive it, scored, maybe one time, we’re out getting the ball to start the second half. It could have been a different outcome. Bret does a great job. You watch their guys and they have been in those type of games for a couple years. They fight and they finish right until the end.
Are you ever surprised with what Zack [Prescott] does? He’s set so many records, but if you look out there he just keeps completing passes, are you ever surprised with what you see from him?
Yeah, I’d say he might be the best player I ever coached. If you look at my coaching resume, that’s pretty impressive.
What were the chances going into this game that you thought you could see a 7 touchdown game from Brandon Allen and still win?
Seven touchdowns by Brandon Allen minus three turnovers, I wouldn’t feel good about it for us. You knew they’ve done such a good job throwing the football all year. I think it was two of the best quarterbacks in America battling out there on the field today. You know the big thing to me is we have not done a great job in running the ball all year, but we came in and out rushed and Arkansas team.
That to me is a huge factor in the game. You know, if you have the star power with these quarterbacks, but the fact that we were able to run the ball. You know, you would have said Brandon Holloway was gonna outrush Alex Collins tonight, you would kind of be shocked.
Did you feel comfortable with Zack Prescott that the game was never really out of reach?
Yeah, I always feel comfortable when we have Zack. Because he’s going to be so calm – just give me the ball, we’re going to make it happen. I think we were playing well. It wasn’t like we were, you know, sputtering.
Boy, we gave up some plays and we hadn’t been playing well on [defense], and actually we had been playing well on offense – we just made some terrible mistakes and turned it over. I felt that he needed to come up and make a play for us and he would continue to make plays and he did. He makes great plays all through that game.
You coached a Heisman trophy winner and overall number one [NFL Draft] pick. What makes Zack up there or better?
I just think how he controls the game. His ability to lead, his ability to throw, and make all the different throws, his ability to manage the team and the emotions of the team to make checks, to make all of the different possible throws, and he is just, I mean, he’s a winner. He wants to fall on his hands to go win the game. He’s the guy that’s going, I think that whole team knows that if you give him a chance, he’s going to win the football game.
* Despite tallying ten catches, Wilson did not gain more than 12 yards on any single play.
**The Bulldogs’ Dak Prescott was actually on pace for a 600-yard night through the first quarter after completing 21 attempts. He finished as the only SEC player besides Johnny Manziel to tally more than 550 yards of total offense in a single game.
Dak Prescott said at one point in the 1st half a #Hogs defensive lineman told him “I like y’all’s tempo.” It really threw him for a loop.
— Evin Demirel (@evindemirel) November 22, 2015