"I wanted to express our condolences to the family and friends of Mike Sands from FOX40 in Jackson who passed away this Saturday. Certainly, the Mississippi State football program has him on our mind right now.
"Obviously, we are disappointed with the outcome of the game. I thought we had a solid week of practice. I thought the kids played hard but didn't perform well enough against a quality SEC opponent to win the game. To me, it goes back to performance indicators that we talk about all the time. From the explosive play standpoint, it was a push. We had 12, six run and six pass and they had 12, six run and six pass. So, that was even. The biggest thing to me was the turnover margin. We gave it away three times and didn't get any, so we were minus three in the turnover battle and minus six in the last two weeks. I think minus seven over the last three [weeks]. It is going to be tough to win a lot of games when you are turning it over and not creating very many turnovers. In the red zone, we were 4-for-4 in the red zone with three touchdowns. They were 6-for-6 with six touchdowns. We were minus two there. In third and fourth down conversion percentage, we were 6-for-13 and they were 8-for-11. We needed to get off the field there.
"Obviously, when those things aren't stacked in your favor and you aren't winning in those categories, it is going to be tough to win a game. We need to get better there. We need to continue to work and continue to improve.
"From a Student-Athlete of the Week [perspective], Brandon Cunningham and Fred Peters were chosen this week. From an injury standpoint, I am going to go with the questionable guys and the out guys, not the probable. On offense, Stewart Reese is questionable with a lower body. On defense, [Maurice] Smitherman, who I told you was out for the season, had his surgery this morning with a lower body. Fletcher Adams will be out for the remainder of the season. He had surgery this morning with a lower body. Aaron Brule is questionable with a lower body. Cameron Dantzler is questionable with an upper body. James Jackson is questionable with a lower body. Jarrian Jones is out with an upper body. C.J. Morgan is questionable with an upper body. Nathan Pickering is questionable with an upper body.
"Moving on to Arkansas, led by [head coach] Chad Morris who is an innovative offensive mind and is in his second year leading the Arkansas program. He is the former AFCA National Assistant Coach of the Year and National Coordinator of the Year. The offense is led by Joe Craddock. He is the quarterbacks' coach. They use the spread offensive with a lot of tempo. I think they have played three quarterbacks throughout the season, [Nick] Starkel, [Ben] Hicks and [John Stephen] Jones, who came in at the end of the Alabama game. He went 6-for-7 and led them on a touchdown drive. The running back, Rakeem Boyd, is the best guy in terms of the run game. The tight end [Cheyenne] O'Grady has done a really nice job for them in the run game and the pass game. He is a good threat there.
"John Chavis, the veteran, is the defensive coordinator. They use a base with four-down, and then get into some three- and four-down looks, as well. They like playing a mixture of two-high zone and man-to-man coverage. On the defensive line, [McTelvin Agim] is a guy who really excels. De'Jon Harris is the three-time All-SEC linebacker. On the back end is Kamren Curl.
"Barry Lunney is the special teams coordinator. They kind of mix it up and keep it simple but try to get their playmakers some space. Going back to the offense, they have two true freshman receivers, Treylon Burks and [Trey Knox]. They are one of the highest-rated true freshman receiver combinations in the country.
"We had a good day on Sunday. The kids have worked really hard. We are excited to put the game plan together today. We are going to need to keep it sharp and keep it tight. We need to have a great week of practice so we can take the field and move forward to get SEC win No. 2 and overall win No. 4."
Q: How do you plan to manage the depth at cornerback right now?
JM: "We are just going to have to work. It is the part of the season where we are at the tail end of it. You are going into game nine. Everyone in the country is dealing with injuries. We have been beset by quite a few, but we have the next man in mentality. The person who goes in is going to do as good or better of a job. Korey Charles and some of the other young guys will have to come in a play a role."
Q: Kylin Hill returned to form this weekend, what did you see from him this weekend when you watched the tape?
JM: "First and foremost, I thought the offensive line did a good job of being physical upfront and getting a push to create some movement, some horizontal and vertical seams in the defense. I thought Kylin, sometimes talented runners like him they want to create something maybe and be a little bit more patient, what he did was he got downhill and got behind his pads and ran with a lot more physicality. Honestly, had a very good week of practice. He was very positive, worked very hard and what doesn't show up on the stat sheet was his pass protection was a lot better, as well. It was a good bounce back game for Kylin."
Q: The offense over the last four weeks only has six points in the first quarter. Have you ever had a stretch where you offense was so slow out of the gate for such a long stretch?
JM: "I would have to look back. One of the things we chart is first drive score and I think we hit that three times early on and have not hit it since. You kind of put an early game script together of plays where you are trying some different things and different formations to see what they are in [defensively]. I can't say that I recall that happening, but it is making sure we are making the right calls and, when we do, making sure the kids are executing."
Q: What stuck out to you about Garrett Shrader from the first half to the second half with the way he played?
JM: "I don't think he was necessarily pressing it. Some of it was accuracy issues, some of it was reads and some of it was protection on the third down stuff. I think we got in and kind of made some adjustments. Some things were right in his face, some things were more progression-oriented and full-field oriented. I think [he was] able to get his feet underneath him and set the pocket, and I thought he bounced back nicely in the second half."
Q: Given the standings and where Mississippi State and Arkansas sit, how desperate do you think both teams will be to get a win this week?
JM: "I do not think there is desperation necessarily, by any means. We are certainly focusing all of our concentration and all of our efforts in practice and preparation in making sure we are doing everything necessarily to go out perform and play well this week and get a win."
Q: When you look at the film from Texas A&M, what do you think is most fixable on defense heading into this week?
JM: "Outside the explosive plays, we really didn't get off the field on the third-and-medium downs, you know three to six or three to seven yards. We brought some pressures and had some guys free to the quarterback and they were either a step slow or did not get in face to knock the ball down or knock the quarterback down. They had some very talented receivers that were able to create some separation, either inside when we were outside leverage or outside when we inside leverage, and some of the tackling at the end of [the game]. I would say those were the things from the game that require the most attention."
Q: Before the game, you did the circle drill before the game. What went into that decision?
JM: "I have seen that through 21 years and have seen some other people do it. I remember Al Golden use to do it at Temple and Miami (Fla.) and some other people. Talking to the captains and the leadership council when we meet every Sunday night and we talk about playing with energy, playing with emotion and getting the guys fired up. They thought it was a good idea, just have three guys and not necessarily an Oklahoma drill, but it was more of a straight-on board drill where they fire off and let the guys drive and blow the whistle. The kids liked it and they were fired up about it."
Q: We have seen Isaiah Zuber emerge as a playmaker over the last two weeks. What have you seen from him over the last few weeks?
JM: "I think opportunities. I think practice and preparation, and Michael [Johnson] has done a real nice job with him and his flexibility from this past game with the two touchdowns. He caught at the X position and one at the slot position. He is a guy that we talk about early on that can do things as an inside and outside receiver. He is doing a good job of creating separation and making plays on close and contested balls. He'll continue to improve throughout the season."
Q: You have went through a tough stretch of opponents the last few weeks, do you think that the schedule sets up well down the stretch for your team?
JM: "Yeah, I think all of us players, coaches, and everyone in the program, when you make the decision to come [play in] the SEC and the SEC West, you understand there is going to be a small margin of error [when playing against] the best brand of college football in the country. We have a tough schedule. I think I saw one place where it was rated third-toughest in the country and we have some teams we played early on that are playing well. We can't look anything past what we are going to do at practice tomorrow, then on Wednesday, then on Thursday, then on Friday, and playing with great effort and executing well. You can say maybe there is an accumulative effect that it wears down the kids because they are young or [it effects them] psychologically a little bit. This day and age with technology and phones and things that like that, they have short memories. and we put it to bed on Sunday and we have moved on to Arkansas."
Q: Ball security has been an issue the last few weeks, how do you correct that over the next couple of weeks?
JM: "One with the quarterbacks and the interceptions, that comes down to decision making and accuracy and knowing when it is better to take a sack or throw it away instead of trying to throw it in an ill-advised spot. From a fumble standpoint, we do ball security circuit at a minimum of once a week and usually twice a week. It is just about habits and keeping the ball high and tight and not letting it get away from your body. That is something we drill every week in practice. Obviously, we need to continue to do a better job with."
Q: With the short kicks at Texas A&M, what was the reason for those short kicks?
JM: "They were all deep left [calls]. Two of them were miss-hit. Two of them were into a bit of a wind and that is why in the second half we decided to, not squib kick it, but drive it on the ground and keep it underneath the wind. We certainly were not trying to pop those things up high and have them catch it on the 15. Two of them were miss-hits."
Q: After the Kentucky game there was a big display of emotion from you in the locker room, how long ago does that feel? With the highs and lows of a season, how much are you looking to get that feeling back?
JM: "Regardless of the team and regardless of the situation, there are going to be highs and lows in any college football season. It does not seem that long ago. It was great to get that SEC win and particularly do it at home, but you can't look in the rear-view mirror you have to look through the front windshield and see what is ahead of you. I know our kids are focused on everything we need to do this week to get ready to beat Arkansas."