Mississippi State's Joe Moorhead joined the rest of the league's head coaches on the SEC Teleconference on Wednesday to discuss the Bulldogs' game against Arkansas.
Here is a transcript of Moorhead's time on the call:
Moorhead: “Obviously it was a very physical and hard fought game against Alabama. There’s a reason they’re they No. 1 ranked team in the country and defending national champions. I thought we fought hard in all three phases and the defense gave us a chance. I thought the offense really didn’t do enough for us to pull an upset of that caliber. I thought we improved in punt coverage but obviously had that missed field goal and muffed punt, which kind of hurt us a little bit.
“I’m excited for the next opportunity. It’s senior day and guys last home game at Davis Wade (Stadium). It’s a very improved Arkansas squad and we’re excited to get overall win No. 7 and SEC win No. 3.”
Mississippi State had struggled prior to Dan Mullen. What type of team did you inherit and what kind of job did he do there?
Moorhead: “Obviously when you takeover a program it’s for one of two reasons: because the coach prior to you wasn’t doing a good enough job or he was doing a very good job. I think coach Mullen and his staff in the nine years that they were here built a very solid foundation. Obviously they had a bunch of bowl appearances and coming in we were looking to build off of that success. We talk a lot about the term championship standard and wanting to bring an SEC championship trophy to Starkville.”
What do you need to do to better the passing game?
Moorhead: “I think we need a little more consistency than anything. We’ve had some days where we’ve thrown it really well and in three or four we haven’t thrown it well at all. I got asked earlier in the week about the transition of our offense in the places that I’ve been. I think what we’re asking the kids to do in the pass game is probably a little different than what they have done in the past relative to quarterback reads, progression and routes.
“I think the run game has remained consistent. We’re one of the top two or three teams in the league running the ball. But to be the type of offense that we want to be relative to explosiveness and allowing you to compete for a championship, the offense needs to run and throw with equal effectiveness.”
What type of improvements have you seen from Arkansas the past few weeks?
Moorhead: “If you look at the LSU game, you saw it come to LSU needing a four-minute drive at 24-17. The Texas A&M game, a top 25 team that was 24-17. I got a chance to watch the Ole Miss game and that came down to the last drive too.
“They’re continuing to play hard week after week. They’re very competitive against SEC opponents and are ones that have achieved a high level of success this year. Like I said yesterday, I don’t think Arkansas’ performance level is indicative of a team that’s 2-8 and 0-6. I think coach (Chad) Morris and his staff have done a fantastic job of playing hard week after week.”
Has the SEC been the best conference in the country in 2018?
Moorhead: “That’s hard for me to gauge because I really don’t get an opportunity to watch much football outside of our conference. But I do think it would be a difficult thing to debate when you look at the competition within our conference. Obviously you’ve got Alabama at the top but a bunch of other teams that are slugging it out.
“There’s a tremendous amount of parody and the rankings – the AP, coaches and College Football Playoff rankings – bear that out. That’s what the most impressive about this league on a weekly basis where the margin of error is small. Any team can compete with another on a given Saturday.”
People believe that blue blood programs get the benefit of the doubt on close calls. Do you give much thought to things like that?
Moorhead: “Ultimately what we preach to our players and hopefully it’s a thought process we subscribe to as a staff is that we’ve got to control the controllable. The calls that are made are out of our hands. Obviously in a game of that magnitude, you’re looking for a glimmer of hope.
“I said earlier in the week, we didn’t need to play a perfect game but we needed to play a near perfect game for us to beat (Alabama). That touchdown there would’ve given us hope with it being 21-7 going into the half and getting the ball back to start the second half.
“Then if you look back at the fumble on the first drive, that would’ve given us the ball plus position. My mind really doesn’t stray or wonder there. We control what we can control and in a game like that you’re looking for breaks and hope to give yourself a chance to compete.”
Are you pleased with the way the SEC handles situations where you have concerns about a call?
Moorhead: “In the 10 weeks that I’ve been here, the things that we’ve done from a protocol standpoint relative to officiating and turning in plays to get feedback has not been adequate but has been a fairly thorough and complete process.”
Have you changed your process on reviewing plays for situations like that fumble against Alabama?
Moorhead: “Yeah, obviously we have the opportunity to challenge it. The process is that every play is reviewed and you hope that it doesn’t have to fall back on the coaches to make that challenge. But we talked about not making proclamations in the booth unless you’re absolutely sure from a quality control standpoint within our staff. That was the discussion that we had.”
Is there a coach that tells you when to challenge?
Moorhead: “Usually the guys have a view of one of the TV screens in the coaches’ booth. Obviously guys are watching the play but because there’s a delay on the TV and plays happen bang-bang on the field, that’s why I think everything goes to review.”
How impressed are you with the development of your defensive front?
Moorhead: “Jeffery (Simmons) and Montez (Sweat) get the praise and acclaim and it’s all well deserved. But in addition to those guys, coach (Brian) Baker does a great job developing the rest of the talent and depth. Braxton Hoyett, Gerri Green, Chauncey Rivers, Kobe Jones and across the board we’ll roll 8-10 guys through there over the course of the game. That’s allowed guys like Montez and Jeffery to stay fresh.”
What have you seen from Arkansas’ run game?
Moorhead: “Obviously coach Morris has a tremendous background running the football and coach (Joe) Craddock has done a great job this year. I think they do a great job with balance. It’s not just specifically having to stop the run but there’s the dropback pass, a screen in there, a wheel route, a deep-over route and some naked plays that move the pocket on the perimeter. I think that helps setup the running game.
“Inside zones and a bunch of other things that they do, I think they play great complimentary football where if you’re focused on stopping on aspect of it then the other one can beat you.”
What do you think of Arkansas’ tight end Cheyenne O’Grady?
Moorhead: “I think he leads the team in receptions. He’s a big, physical target and obviously does a good job in the run game. He’s one of those mismatch guys where if you get him locked onto a safety or linebacker he can create separation with his athleticism and use his body on those 50/50 contested balls.
“He’s definitely a guy that we pointed out during the week that’ll warrant a lot of attention from our defense.”