These Bulldogs can block. Really, really block.
“We came into this week trying to prove a point,” said Ben Beckwith. “We’ve been hearing a lot of people talk about how our O-line looks week and this and that. We just wanted to come out and show them, look, it’s SEC time.”
Now look at who is off to a 1-0 start in SEC season with win over not just the #8-ranked club in the country but a Western Division rival (admittedly, often the same thing). Mississippi State enjoyed a conference coming-out party at Louisiana State with a 34-29 final. That was all the reward everyone wanted from the first SEC test.
But if the league Office was handing out awards to deserving Dogs today, well heck fellas, they’ll accept with good grace. For his marvelous performance and amazing statistics QB Dak Prescott was named Co-Offensive Player of the Week.
Beckwith, now, he didn’t have to co- anything with anybody. The senior guard was named Offensive Lineman of the Week all on his own. He is also believed to be the first former walk-on to win this SEC honor. Again though, being a blocker means Beckwith will tell any and all it was a group award to Mississippi State’s starting offensive line.
Because against the well-regarded Tiger defensive line…well, Beckwith said it best.
“We absolutely dominated them up-front,” said Beckwith. “Nothing against those guys, they’re a good group. But it was our day. We wanted to set a tone up front and I think we did it all day.”
All night, too. By the time Mississippi State’s front-five had put in three quarters, Prescott and State’s skill personnel had used their protection to pile up 520 of the eventual 570 total yards gained at LSU expense. It wasn’t coincidence that the scoring and most gaining ended when the second quintet took over. Or that the starters were rushed back on-field for the final series after LSU had rallied within five points. So hurried was the return that OC Dillon Day had to wear his knee braces over his pants and socks.
Still State had done enough offensively to build a lead the first defense could sustain at the end. The net-gains was the highest total yardage against a Coach Les Miles club ever. The 302 Bulldog rushing yards were very nearly as much as all three previous Tiger opponents compiled.
All numbers sounded sweet to left guard Beckwith in fact. “I think (Josh) Robinson had 16 carries for almost 200 yards,” he said, accurately as the running back ended with a career-best 197. Just about all of those gains were made beginning between-the-tackles, for that matter between-the-guards as Mississippi State’s interior three simply whipped the much more touted LSU defensive front.
It wasn’t just their power play which made State go though. Particularly in the second half, Prescott found himself improvising plays when coverage was close or the flanks were crowded. Typically, fast quarterback footwork reduces demands on the blockers; not so with Prescott, said Coach Dan Mullen.
“When you have a quarterback who does that the offensive line knows they don’t have to block for three to five seconds, they might be blocking for nine, ten seconds because they don’t know where he’s going to start running around back there. They had to do that, and they did.”
This was born-out emphatically when Prescott was flushed right, found a crowd there and reversed course. Every available Tiger was screened-off by a big Maroon shirt. Prescott wasn’t touched and found space and time to throw to WR Jameon Lewis for what became a 74-yard touchdown play. All improvised on the fly.
Beckwith also had a huge hand as well as forearms and shoulders in maybe the key play of the second half. With third-and-long on their 25 and only leading 17-10 after a turnover touchdown, Prescott called cadence for a receiver screen. It meant him taking a few steps left, turning and throwing to wideout De’Runnya Wilson behind the line. Prescott did his part despite two tall Tigers bearing down from the back side…
…because they’d been turned loose by Beckwith and right tackle Justin Senior. So when Wilson caught the short lob the two linemen were already taking out the other two defenders supposed to support that side. Wilson got 12 yards for first down, three snaps later Prescott was gone on his 56-yard touchdown keeper, and the Bulldogs headed for their first victory in the interstate rivalry of this century.
For seniors Beckwith and Day, the latter a Louisiana native, it felt as if a hundred years of frustration had just been flushed into the nearest bayou.
“I was just talking to Dillon, my roommate, this is my fifth year playing them since I redshirted,” Beckwith said. “My last game ever to play in Death Valley. We came out with a victory and I’ll remember it for the rest of my life. I’ll tell my kids, my grandkids, I’ll tell everybody about this until I get done. It’s just awesome, one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had honestly.”
Though, having an open date to enjoy the win and let well-won bumps and bruises heal ahead of a home game with Texas A&M is a pretty fine feeling, too. Come that October 4 kickoff (11:00am CT) it will be an even more confident bunch of Bulldog blockers ready to go. Wearing down Southern Mississippi, UAB, and South Alabama was well-and-good.
Beating up the Tigers in their den? Beckwith just grinned, again. “We kind of had a little preseason time and we wanted to prove a point really. And I think we did.”