October, 4, 2014
By Edward Aschoff | ESPN.com
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- As the closing seconds dripped off Mississippi State’s two mammoth end zone scoreboards, a still packed Davis Wade Stadium erupted, and cowbells clanged.
Bulldogs players, still trying to grasp their dominating 48-31 win over No. 6 Texas A&M, rushed the student section and started what should be one heck of a party in Starkville.
Coach Dan Mullen carried his daughter.
“You never see this,” Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin said. “Usually, games like this, the students are gone.”
By games like this, Stricklin meant blowouts. But this one, which at times felt like Mississippi State was playing an early-season gimmie game, was so different because of the school lined up opposite the Bulldogs. That team projected to have some sort of College Football Playoff run was trounced by the Bulldogs before halftime, when its quarterback, Heisman Trophy candidate Kenny Hill, had directed A&M’s high-powered offense to just 10 points.
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesMississippi State QB Dak Prescott did damage with his legs against Texas A&M, rushing for three TDs.
Those fans stayed because they wanted to celebrate with a team that has now beaten Top-10 opponents in back-to-back games for the first time ever. They wanted to celebrate with a team that proved it deserves to be given SEC contender status.
It deserves some playoff talk, too.
“I’m proud of our guys, I’m proud of our team, I’m proud of the whole university,” said Mullen, who got choked up during his postgame news conference. “It is hard to win in the SEC.”
Mullen couldn’t help getting emotional. He just watched what most of the country watched: Utter dominance from a group of two- and three-star high school misfits.
With the college football universe descending on the state of Mississippi this weekend (No. 3 Alabama played at No. 11 Ole Miss), 12th-ranked Mississippi State proved to be a great opening act for the Magnolia State. It makes you wonder if the Bulldogs should have been the main event and if this team might be the best of a wild bunch in the SEC West.
“Pretty big statement -- Mississippi STATEment,” quarterback Dak Prescott said of the win.
It didn’t matter that starting center Dillon Day was out due to suspension and top wide receiver Jameon Lewis was down with a leg injury. You hardly noticed their absences. Outside of a beautiful opening drive, the Aggies didn’t look fit to be on the same field as the Bulldogs.
“It said that we can compete in the SEC West,” said running back Josh Robinson, who had a game-high 107 rushing yards and two touchdowns. “We can be one of the better teams.”
The Aggies certainly have their issues -- including catching the football -- but you can’t take anything away from Mississippi State’s performance. The offense was incredibly efficient, went 6-for-6 in the red zone and piled on 559 yards of offense.
Prescott was a surgeon with his passing and threw for 264 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 77 yards and three scores.
The Bulldogs' defense frustrated Hill all day. It was aggressive; the Bulldogs dialed up the pressure to take the deep pass away and registered four sacks. The Aggies piled up 526 yards and 31 points, but this game was never in doubt after the Bulldogs went up three scores in the second quarter.
We wondered if Mississippi State, which has historically flamed out on the big stage, could win the big game when the spotlight was on. The Bulldogs have now won two of those games and should head into next week’s showdown with Auburn as a Top-10 opponent.
“We’re moving up the charts, so people know our names, but we’re not worried about them knowing it,” running back Brandon Holloway.
Oh, they’ll know it now.
The praise will be coming, but do the Bulldogs care?
“Recognition is awesome, but you kind of like being under the radar, honestly,” said offensive lineman Ben Beckwith, who filled in for Day at center. “I like going [into games] thinking the other teams are looking over us. You would think they wouldn’t be.”
People will be talking about the Bulldogs a little more now, and they should. When the defense is in sync with the offense like it was Saturday, this is as complete a team as there is in the SEC, and it looks like it’s only getting better.
“We don’t care what kind of attention we get," Robinson said. "Because at the end of the year, we should have a No. 1 next to our name."
Fournette Runs Over Aggie On 22-Yd TD
12:00 PM ET South Carolina 21 Clemson 12:00 PM ET 16 Georgia Tech 9 Georgia 12:00 PM ET Kentucky 22 Louisville 3:30 PM ET Florida 3 Florida State 3:30 PM ET 4 Mississippi State 19 Ole Miss 4:00 PM ET Tennessee Vanderbilt 7:45 PM ET 15 Auburn 1 Alabama