CFN Take: Miss State Falters In Egg Bowl

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Nov 29, 2014


Mississippi State Bulldogs 2014 ... Head Coach: Dan Mullen

Mississippi State Bulldogs

2014 Schedule
Record: 10-2

Aug. 30 Southern Miss W 49-0
Sep. 6 UAB W 47-34
Sep. 13 at So Alabama W 35-3
Sep. 20 at LSU W 34-29
Sep. 27 OPEN DATE
Oct. 4 Texas A&M W 48-31
Oct. 11 Auburn W 38-23
Oct. 18 OPEN DATE
Oct. 25 at Kentucky W 45-31
Nov. 1 Arkansas W 17-10
Nov. 8 UT-Martin W 45-16
Nov. 15 at Alabama L 25-20
Nov. 22 Vanderbilt W 51-0
Nov. 29 at Ole Miss L 31-17
Nov. 29 at Ole Miss 31, Mississippi State 17
And You Care Because … Ole Miss ruined Mississippi State’s playoff dream with a third quarter explosion. Down 10-7 after Dak Prescott ran for a one-yard score for the Bulldogs, the Rebels cranked out 17 straight points on a one-yard Jeremy Liggins run, a 39-yard Gary Wunderlich field goal, and one of the highlights of the SEC season, a 91-yard Jaylen Walton scoring dash. MSU tried to pull back in it with a 32-yard Prescott touchdown pass to De’Runnya Wilson, but the Rebels put it away with a 31-yard Cody Core catch from RB Jordan Wilkins.
What Else? Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace completed 13-of-30 passes for 296 yards and a pick, and he ran for a score
- Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott completed 22-of-37 passes for 282 yards and a score, and ran 24 times for 48 yards and a touchdown
- Ole Miss TE Evan Engram caught five passes for 176 yards
- Total yards: Ole Miss 532 – Mississippi State 445
Game Rating: B

Nov. 22 at Mississippi State 51, Vanderbilt 0
And You Care Because … Mississippi State roared out of the gate with 34 straight points with a Christian Holmes fumble recovery for a score, two Dak Prescott touchdown passes and a four-yard run. Vanderbilt managed just 228 yards of total offense, and despite a slew of penalties, MSU was never threatened. Ashton Shumpert ran for a three-yard score and Joe Morrow caught touchdown passes from 27 and nine yards out.
What Else? Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott completed 16-of-21 passes for 193 yards and three scores, and ran for 30 yards and a touchdown
- Vanderbilt QB Johnny McCrary completed 15-of-31 passes for 161 yards and a pick, and ran eight times for a team-high 21 yards
- Penalties: Mississippi State 11 for 87 yards – Vanderbilt 5 for 57 yards
- Third down conversions: Mississippi State 11-of-15 – Vanderbilt 4-of-15
Game Rating: D-

Nov. 15 at Alabama 25, Mississippi State 20
And You Care Because … The defense forced three turnovers and Amari Cooper, Derrick Henry and T.J. Yeldon each came up with short scores as Alabama controlled the game throughout – mostly. The Tide got up 19-0 in the first half on a one-yard Henry run, but the offense started to stall in the second half as MSU slowly came back with two Evan Sobiesk field goals and a four-yard Fred Ross catch to pull within six. Just when the momentum started to change, the Tide wen 76 yards in 15 plays closing out with Yeldon’s seven-yard touchdown run with just over eight minutes to play. The Bulldogs got their final score on a four-yard Jameon Lewis catch with 15 seconds to play, but Alabama recovered the onside kick.
What Else? Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott completed 27-of-48 passes for 290 yards and two touchdowns with three interceptions, and ran 22 times for a team-high 82 yards
- Alabama QB Blake Sims completed 19-of-31 passes for 211 yards and a score, and ran four times for 18 yards
- Total yards: Mississippi State 428 – Alabama 335
- Turnovers: Mississippi State 3 – Alabama 0
Game Rating: B-

Nov. 8 at Mississippi State 45, UT Martin 16
And You Care Because … Dak Prescott ran for a 48-yard score and threw two touchdown passes finding Fred Brown for a ten-yard score and Joe Morrow for a 55-yard touchdown. UTM got a 33-yard field goal from Jackson Redditt in the first quarter, but it was all MSU after that with 31 straight points finished off late in the third quarter with a 59-yard Ashton Shumpert run. Jarod Neal threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Ben Axline in the fourth and ran for a one-yard score to pull UTM to 38-16, but that was it for the Warhawk scoring.
What Else? Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott completed 14-of-23 passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns
- UTM QB Jarod Neal completed 14-of-27 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown
- Total yards: Mississippi State 520 – UTM 367
- Time of possession: UTM 36:07 – Miss State 23:53
Game Rating: D+

Nov. 1 at Mississippi State 17, Arkansas 10
And You Care Because … Mississippi State hung on for dear life as Will Redmond intercepted a pass deep in Bulldog territory to preserve the win. Arkansas got up 10-0 in the first half with Alex Collins running for a one-yard score, and while MSU scored 17 unanswered points, it was a fight. Josh Robinson ran for a three-yard touchdown, and Fred Ross took a Dak Prescott pass 69 yards for a touchdown, but three turnovers and the Arkansas defense made it tough to close.
What Else? Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott completed 18-of-27 passes for 331 yards and a touchdown with two picks, and ran 13 times for 61 yards
- Time of possession: Arkansas 38:46 - Mississippi State 21:14
- Arkansas RB Alex Collins ran 16 times for 93 yards and a score
- Arkansas QB Brandon Allen completed 22-of-43 passes for 238 yards with an interception
Game Rating: A-

Oct. 25 Mississippi State 45, at Kentucky 31
And You Care Because … Mississippi State overcame a huge day from Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles with Josh Robinson and the ground game. Robinson started off the scoring with a 12-yard run, and came up with a brilliant 74-yard dash in the fourth, and Dak Prescott ran for touchdown runs from two and 11 yards, but Towles was close to unstoppable, running for two touchdowns and finding Demarco Robinson for a 67-yard score and Javess Blue for a 58-yard touchdown as the two teams traded punches all game long. Mississippi State stayed ahead all game long and never trailed, but UK kept fighting, pulling within seven late on the second Towles run. UK tried an onside kick, but Christian Holmes returned it 61 yards for a touchdown to put the wild game away.
What Else? Mississippi State RB Josh Robinson ran 23 times for 198 yards and two touchdowns
- Kentucky QB Patrick Towles completed 24-of-43 passes for 290 yards and two touchdowns, and ran 23 times for a team-leading 76 yards and two scores
- Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott completed 18-of-33 passes for 216 yards and a touchdown with a pick, and ran 18 times for 88 yards and two touchdowns
- Total yards: Mississippi State 542 – Kentucky 504
Game Rating: A-

Oct. 11 at Mississippi State 38, Auburn 23
And You Care Because … It was a sloppy, rainy game, but it was all beautiful for Mississippi State as it got up 21-0 in the first quarter on short touchdown runs from Dak Prescott and Josh Robinson, and a 34-yard pass play to De’Runnya Wilson. Auburn turnovers proved costly from start to finish, hanging around with two D’haquille Williams touchdown catches and three Daniel Carlson field goals, but when pushed, Mississippi State came through, with a key defensive stop and scoring runs from Prescott and Williams to stay up. Auburn kept pushing late, but driving, Nick Marshall was picked off for a second time.
What Else? Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott completed 18-of-34 passes for 246 yards and a score with two picks, and he ran 21 times for 121 yards and two touchdowns
- Auburn QB Nick Marshall completed 17-of-25 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions, and let the team with 100 rushing yards on 17 carries
- Rushing yards: Auburn 232 – Mississippi State 223
- Turnovers: Auburn 4 – Mississippi State 4
Game Rating: B+

Oct. 4 at Mississippi State 48, Texas A&M 31
And You Care Because … Mississippi State gave up a touchdown from Kenny Hill to Josh Reynolds on the opening drive of the game, and then it was all cowbell with 28 straight points on the way to a stunning rout. Dak Prescott ran for three touchdowns and threw for two more, and Josh Robinson ran for two short scores as the Bulldog offense carved its way through the Aggie defense for 559 yards. A&M got three touchdown passes from Kenny Hill with two to Speedy Noil from 23 and six yards out, but the Aggie quarterback was plagued by dropped passes all game long and threw three picks. Prescott put the game away in the second half with two short scoring runs, and just when it seemed like it might turn into a battle after Noil’s first scoring catch, Fred Brown took a pass 51 yards for a Bulldog score.
What Else? Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott completed 19-of-25 passes for 259 yards and two scores, and ran 23 times for 77 yards and three touchdowns
- Texas A&M QB Kenny Hill completed 37-of-62 passes for 365 yards and four touchdowns with three picks, and ran 12 times for 35 yards
- Mississippi State RB Josh Robinson ran 17 times for 107 yards and two scores
- Yards per pass: Mississippi State 10.9 – Texas A&M 5.9
Game Rating: B

Sept. 20 Mississippi State 34, at LSU 29
And You Care Because … Mississippi State ran all over LSU with Josh Robinson and Dak Prescott each going for over 100 yards with a touchdown, but LSU came roaring back and almost pulled off a miracle. Down 34-10, the Tigers scored 19 unanswered points with Kenny Hilliard running for a score and Malachi Dupre making touchdown grabs from 31 and 30 yards out within 28 seconds to pull within five. They’d get one more shot, but Brandon Harris’s desperation heave into the end zone was picked off. MSU dominated before the late run, helped by a 74-yard Jameon Lewis touchdown catch and a 56-yard Prescott Dash to pull away in the third before the late LSU rally.
What Else? Mississippi State gained 570 yards of total offense, the most allowed by LSU under Les Miles.
- Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott completed 15-of-24 passes for 268 yards and two scores, and he ran 22 times for 105 yards and a score.
- MSU outgained LSU 302 yards to 89. Josh Robinson ran for 197 yards and a score on 16 carries for the Bulldogs.
- LSU QB Brandon Harris completed 6-of-9 passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns with a pick, and ran for 19 yards, and Anthony Jennings completed 13-of-26 passes for 157 yards and ran for six.
Game Rating: B

Sept. 13 Mississippi State 35, at South Alabama 3
And You Care Because … Mississippi State cranked up the offense with 28 first half points and 514 yards on the way to an easy win. Dak Prescott ran for a score from 40 yards out and caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Jameon Lewis on a trick play, and Josh Robinson ran for touchdowns from two and 15 yards away. South Alabama turned it over four times and only managed a 26-yard Aleem Sunanon field goal in the second quarter.
What Else? Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott completed 13-of-21 passes for 201 yards and a score, ran 14 times for 139 yards and a touchdown, and caught one pass for a 24-yard score.
- South Alabama QB Brandon Bridge completed 21-of-39 passes for 203 yards with a pick.
- It was hardly a clean game or MSU with eight penalties and two lost fumbles, but the O outgained USA 514 yards to 345.
- Mississippi State RB Josh Robinson ran 12 times for 77 yards and two scores. The Bulldogs averaged 6.4 yards per carry.
Game Rating: D

Sept. 6 at Mississippi State 47, UAB 34
And You Care Because … It wasn’t pretty, but there was lots and lots of offense with UAB coming up with 548 yards and Mississippi State 516, but a Bulldog 21-point run help take the game over in the third quarter. UAB wouldn’t go away, with Josh Magee catching an 81-yard touchdown pass and Quincy Perdue coming up with a 75-yard scoring play.
What Else? MSU’s Dak Prescott completed 12-of-25 passes for 211 yards and four scores, and ran 18 times for 111 yards and a score. Josh Robinson added 20 carries for 124 yards and a score.
- UAB quarterbacks completed just 16-of-34 passes, but they went for 435 yards and three scores with a pick.
- UAB’s Jamarcus Nelson caught five passes for 144 yards and a score, and Josh Magee caught two passes for 199 yards and a touchdown.
- Mississippi State had major problems in the secondary and with poor tackling, and the kicking game was an issue with two missed extra points.
Game Rating: B

Aug. 30 at Mississippi State 49, Southern Miss 0
And You Care Because … It took a little while for MSU to get into a groove, but the offense exploded for 550 yards with Dak Prescott throwing four touchdown passes and Jay Hughes returning a blocked field goal for a score. Southern Miss managed just 283 yards with three turnovers.
What Else? It’s Southern Miss, so there’s no need to give Dak Prescott the Heisman quite yet, but he showed why he’s a sneaky-good candidate completing 18-of-26 passes for 284 yards and four touchdowns with a pick. He didn’t have to run much or be magical, running just eight times for 23 yards.
- Southern Miss couldn’t keep the chains moving. Nick Mullens completed fewer than half of his passes with two picks, but he was under pressure and had to keep pressing. USM had to ignore the ground game.
- The Golden Eagles get Alcorn State up next to finally get a chance to work on everything it needs to for the Conference USA season – mostly, getting the ground game going. And then comes the date against Alabama.
- It’s not like MSU unleashed the ground game. It was okay, but it didn’t dominate like it’ll need to at times – chalk that up to Prescott not running too often. That’ll come.
Game Rating: D

2014 Preview 

It stinks that Mississippi State plays in the SEC West, the toughest division in college football, but if it was ever going to happen, if the program was ever going to turn in a huge year, this has to be it.

It’s not like the division is going to be weaker, but with Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M all going through a wee bit of a reloading phase – especially at quarterback – and with Ole Miss, possibly, not quite there just yet with all of its talent, and with Arkansas still rising up and Auburn’s defense still a question mark, there are signs that maybe, just maybe, the window might be open just a crack.

With 57 returning lettermen returning and 16 starters back – and more, depending on the alignment – this is the team and the season that head coach Dan Mullen has been building towards. There’s talent, depth, signature stars to work around, and a little bit of momentum built after closing out last year on a three game winning streak including a victory over Ole Miss.

And there’s the schedule – Merry Christmas. The memo about SEC teams needing to play a non-conference team with a pulse just got to Starkville, facing Southern Miss, UAB, South Alabama and Tennessee-Martin. Vanderbilt and Kentucky from the East, and no South Carolina, Missouri, Georgia or Florida? Yup, and Auburn and Texas A&M are home games. In other words, considering the talent in the division, even with Alabama and LSU to deal with on the road, it’s as easy as could reasonably be asked for.

However, the Bulldogs have to deal with the nagging question of that schedule – are they really good, or are they the SEC’s ultimate bum slayer?

The win over Ole Miss last season was huge, mainly because No. 2 on the list of top victories was a close call against eventual MAC champion, Bowling Green. How many wins over Alabama, Auburn and LSU have there been in the Mullen era? One, beating the woebegone 2012 Auburn team early on, but going 1-16 against the division’s big three & Texas A&M.

That’s not to say that there haven’t been a few good wins here and there – the 2010 team tagged Georgia, Florida and Michigan, although those three weren’t exactly juggernauts – and beating Ole Miss four times in five tries makes all the cowbells happy, but this is it. This is the year Mississippi State football has to rock, because things change in a massive way from year to year in the SEC – ask Auburn – and when it’s your turn to be good, you can’t miss it.

While it might have been nice to have a blocker back like all-star guard Gabe Jackson, four starters return up front. There’s enough promise in the backfield to make up for the loss of top running back LaDarius Perkins, and if burgeoning superstar quarterback Dak Prescott takes his game up another few levels, the receiving corps will be there to explode.

The defense that finished 18th in the nation – but struggled against the big boys – loses star defensive back Nickoe Whitley, but the Benardrick McKinney and the linebacking corps should be excellent, the line is stacked, and the pass rushing production should come in waves.

Outside of the kicking game, it’s all there for Mullen and his program. There might not ever be a better chance to do big things.


What to watch for on offense: Welcome to the Dak Prescott show. Damian Williams did a decent job when thrown into the fire completing 49% of his passes, but if he’s playing, Mississippi State’s big season is in trouble. While every team has a player they can’t afford to lose, Mississippi State really, really can’t lose Prescott. The team can win several games on the easy schedule without him, but there’s no way it can compete with and beat the big boys without Prescott, who emerged as a star last year and turned out to become one of the SEC’s most dangerous playmakers. The team’s leading rusher and a decent passer, now the pressure is on to carry the offense and do even more. Everything else is in place to succeed, and Prescott has to be every bit as good as hoped for. There’s no reason to throw around the word Heisman when it comes to his game, but he has to be MVP worthy – at least in the SEC.

What to watch for on defense: The secondary has to do its part and can’t allow scoring passes. The pass rush was okay, and the defensive backs did a decent job with 14 picks and plenty of big, key plays, but the defense managed to shine when the touchdown passes weren’t coming. After holding down Oklahoma State in the loss to start the season, not allowing a scoring throw, the Bulldogs allowed 18 touchdown passes on the year. In the other five losses after the opener, MSU allowed 15 touchdowns, and gave up just three in the seven wins including none in the final three games. It wasn’t just that the secondary didn’t give up big scoring plays; it was about the deep ball and the home runs. Johnny Manziel was almost flawless, Nick Marshall made Auburn a passing team, and Zach Mettenberger connected on 25-of-29 passes for 340 yards and two scores in LSU’s blowout win. Those three blew up the MSU secondary, all losses.

The team will be far better if … the special teams aren’t awful. Mississippi State will be good, but it can’t be great unless the special teams are stronger. The punting game wasn’t miserable, but it wasn’t a major plus with the MSU punters combining to average over 40 yards per kick with 20 put inside the 20 – Devon Bell will be fine. However, the placekicking was an issue with three options combining to hit 10-of-21 field goals. Evan Sobiesk will get the first shot after hitting 3-of-6 field goals, but the team needs a steady option. Jameon Lewis was terrific on kickoff returns, averaging 23.5 yards per kick, but he struggled with the abysmal punt return game averaging just 2.3 yards per pop.

The schedule: It's Mississippi State, so it's going to ease into the schedule with three non-conference scrimmages starting out with Southern Miss and following it up with UAB and a strange road game against South Alabama. The Bulldogs are going to need to be ready with the SEC slate opening up against LSU, and with a week off to prepare for showdowns with Texas A&M and Auburn - fortunately, those two games are at home.

And then things get a wee bit easier times with a week off to get ready for a six-week run facing Kentucky first before facing Arkansas and UT Martin. But the key to the season could be splitting two of the final road games at Alabama and Ole Miss. There aren't two road games in a row after mid-September, and there's just enough spacing in the second half of the year to get by.


Best offensive player: Junior QB Dak Prescott. Tyler Russell was supposed to be the star of the offense and the pure passing prospect the program had been looking for. Injuries were a problem, and the emergence of Prescott in the rotation changed the game even more. More and more, Prescott turned into a playmaker who needed to be stopped, and time and again he came through as both a dangerous runner and an emerging passer. This is his offense and his team now, and it’s not a stretch to suggest that the entire season rests on his shoulders – and his legs.

Best defensive player: Junior RB Benardrick McKinney. Built like a defensive end, he’s a dangerous pass rusher and terrific producer in the middle of the linebacking corps, leading the league in tackles and sacks. The Bulldogs are loaded with experience on defense, and they have the talent to potentially come up with one of the top 15 defenses in America, and it’s all going to work around McKinney. A sure-thing tackler, he’s a steady tone-setter for the front seven, and he should in the mix for all-star honors even in another loaded year for SEC defenders.

Key player to a successful season: Junior RB Josh Robinson. Prescott is the one true key to a successful year, and a good placekicker is a must, but to keep the starting quarterback alive and upright, the more the running backs can do, the better. LaDarius Perkins led the team in carries last season with 137 carries, but that was just three fewer than Prescott. This year, the 5-9, 215-pound Robinson – who finished third on the team with 459 yards on 78 carries, will be the one who needs to help carry the load. There will be a rotation of backs, but if Robinson can establish himself early, Prescott will get a bit of a break from time to time.

The season will be a success if … the Bulldogs come up with their first ten-win season since 1999. Even if that means winning nine in the regular season and coming up with a bowl victory. They got to 9-4 in 2010, and this team is better. The schedule has four gift-wrapped non-conference wins, must-wins against Kentucky and Vanderbilt, and Arkansas coming to Starkville. Can they get two wins against LSU, Texas A&M, Auburn, Alabama and Ole Miss? If not now, when?

Key game: Sept. 20 at LSU. Can the Bulldogs makes a massive statement to kickoff their SEC slate? After getting three warm-ups against Southern Miss, UAB and South Alabama, it would be huge – program-changing huge – to not only beat LSU for the first time since 1999, but for the first time in Baton Rouge since 1991. Mississippi State would become a national big thing with a win, a 4-0 start, and two weeks off to prepare for home dates against Texas A&M and then Auburn.

2013 Fun Stats:
- MSU 2nd Quarter Scoring: 140 – MSU 3rd Quarter Scoring 58
- Time of Possession: Mississippi State 33:16 – Opponents 26:44
- Fumbles: Opponents 17 (lost 11) – Mississippi State 15 (lost 6)

- 2014 Mississippi State Preview - What You Need To Know & Top Players
 


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