STARKVILLE — Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen was pleased with the execution from his offense on the final drive of a 21-19 loss to LSU Saturday night.
Trailing by two, the Bulldogs took over at their 11 yard line with 1 minute, 32 seconds remaining. Senior quarterback Dak Prescott was 5 of 8 for 55 yards and moved his team to the LSU 29-yard line.
After two incomplete passes, the Bulldogs faced a third-and-10 with eight seconds remaining, but Prescott didn’t get the snap off in time and MSU was penalized 5 yards for a delay of game and the ball was backed up to the 34. Mullen didn’t try to call a timeout and hoped his team would get the snap off in time.
“I have to do a better job,” Mullen said. “The last three play calls were on me. When you look at the situation and you have one timeout left and it is a first-and-10, if you run it in that situation and don’t get a first down that is the last play you run. On the delay of game, that is solely on me. That was me trying to force.”
Prescott’s pass to De’Runnya Wilson on the next play fell incomplete and with three seconds left, so Mullen had to send out the field goal unit.
Sophomore Westin Graves made field goals of 43 and 24 yards earlier in the game, but Mullen sent out senior Devon Bell to attempt the 52-yard kick. Bell was the primary field goal kicker during his freshman season in 2012, and made 14 of 21 kicks that year. He started his sophomore year as the field goal kicker, but was 6 of 14 and lost the job to Evan Sobiesk. Bell didn’t attempt a field goal last season, but began to get back in the swing of it in spring camp.
LSU coach Les Miles called two timeouts to give Bell time to think about his kick before his attempt went wide right.
“I think I misjudged that deal at the end of the game, and that is on me,” Mullen said. “I could have made a different call, but my thought process was that we needed to get 8 or 9 more yards. We have that timeout to get us to a 37-yard field goal.”
Graves is a 4 of 4 on field goals this season after missing the only kick he attempted last season.
He made field goals of 38 and 37 yards against Southern Mississippi in the season opener and made two more against LSU. He competed with Bell in training camp for the job, and Mullen said he was really consistent. Graves was told before the game with the Golden Eagles he was going to be handling the field goal duties.
“That first one, I was a little nervous. It always is,” Graves said after the win in Hattiesburg. “I’m not going to say I wasn’t nervous and didn’t feel anything, but that first one is good to get out of the way for sure.”
Mullen said he plans to use Graves and Bell this season. Graves will handle many of the shorter kicks, while Bell will kick the longer ones.
Bell has made 20 of 36 kicks in his career. He has a long of 47 yards.
“I don’t want them to change their technique and their form then kick a field goal,” Mullen said. “The worse thing that happens is they start trying to hit it too hard.”
The Southeastern Conference announced Monday that MSU’s game against Auburn on Saturday, Sept. 26, will be a 6 p.m. or 6:30 p.m. kick.
The game will be seen on ESPN, ESPN2, or SEC Network. An official decision will be announced after this week’s games.
The Bulldogs already have played two late games. The season opener at Southern Mississippi kicked at 9:05 p.m., while the game against LSU in Starkville kicked at 8:20 p.m.
MSU will play host to Northwestern State at 3 p.m. Saturday at Davis Wade Stadium. SEC Network will broadcast the game live.
MSU’s game against Missouri on Thursday, Nov. 5, will be at 8 p.m.
n In related news, Ole Miss will play host to Vanderbilt at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26. Alabama’s game against Louisiana-Monroe will be at 3 p.m. the same day. SEC Network will broadcast the game live.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Ben Wait on Twitter @bcwait
Ben Wait reports on Mississippi State University sports for The Dispatch.