Bulldog Football 2014: Game Twelve

#4 Mississippi State (10-1, 6-1 SEC) completes the regular schedule on the road, against #18 Ole Miss (8-3, 4-3 SEC) in the annual Battle for the Golden Egg. Game time is 2:39 for CBS telecast, with the MSU Network pregame broadcast beginning at 12:30 with Matt Wyatt and Bart Gregory.

*Mississippi State already has posted the most regular-season victories ever. The 1940 and ’99 teams won ten games as well, including their bowl victory. No State squad has ever won eleven games.

*This team has also tied the program record for SEC victories, matching the 1998 and ’99 teams at six.

*These Bulldogs concluded the 100th season of play on Scott Field in style, with a 7-0 home record which tied the program record. Coach Dan Mullen’s teams have won their last eight home games, and 10 of 11. In Mullen’s six seasons State is 28-13 on Scott Field, the second-oldest campus venue in the FBS.

*State is now 8-4 all-time playing with a top-ten ranking, 5-1 when top-five and 3-1 as #1. Coach Dan Mullen’s teams are 15-9 playing with any sort of ranking.

*Mullen is the third Bulldog coach to win 40 games and is 46-29 in six seasons. He is already first in bowl victories with a 3-1 record, and his State career winning percentage is best in over half-a-century. In the ten seasons before Mullen arrived, Bulldogs teams had 47 total wins.

*This is the 111th meeting of Mississippi State and Ole Miss since the series began in 1901. But it only the fifth time both teams have boasted rankings for the rivalry. Bulldog teams won the 1940 and ’99 matchups; the Rebels won in 1992, and in 1957 the teams tied 7-7. The higher-ranked team has only won once.

*Mullen is 4-1 in this series with three home-field wins including last year’s overtime 17-10 thriller, the only Egg Bowl to go extra periods. His only loss came in Oxford in 2012, where Mullen’s 2010 team won.

*Mullen has the third-most wins by a MSU coach in the series, behind Jackie Sherrill’s 7 (1991-2003) and Allyn McKeen’s five (1939-48).

*There are 42 Bulldogs back from the 2013 win for this rematch, 16 of them starters.

*Bulldog teams have won six of the last nine meetings.

*State is 11-22-3 playing in Oxford. Prior to 2010, the last Egg Bowl win away from home was in 1998 to clinch the SEC Western Division championship.

Bulldog Team/Player Notes: DT Kaleb Eulls has started all of his 50 career games and leads this roster in starts. Barring problems he will at least tie the career record of 52 by Gabe Jackson in this regular season, and surpass it in post-season. OC Dillon Day is second in starts with 43.

*Eulls, LB Christian Holmes, and LB Matthew Wells are all tied with 50 career games played.

*Three true 2014-signed freshmen have played; LB/ST J.T. Gray, KO/P Logan Cooke, and WR/KR Jamoral Graham.

*Two Bulldogs have made the cuts as finalists for national awards. QB Dak Prescott is one of three remaining candidates for both the Maxwell (best overall player) and Davey O’Brien (best quarterback) awards. He is of course regarded as a clear candidate for the Heisman Trophy which only announces invitees to the presentation ceremony in December. OG Ben Beckwith is a finalist for the Burlsworth Award, given to a college player who began his career as a walk-on.

*Prescott (Offensive) and Beckwith (Offensive Linemen) were also named SEC Players of the Week for their work in the win over Vanderbilt. State has had 12 OTW honors this season, by six Bulldogs. Only Georgia with 13 has more through eleven games.

*Beckwith has started three interior line positions this season; seven at right guard, once at center and once at left guard. He was SEC OLOTW as a guard against LSU, and a center against A&M.

*The Bulldog defense got back to their favorite winning-way last game. State forced three turnovers (one fumble, two interceptions) and 17 points were scored off them. That included a touchdown directly off a turnover, as LB Christian Holmes returned a fumble 51 yards.

*In the previous three games the Dogs had just one takeaway, a last-play interception of Arkansas; and State had not scored anything off a turnover since Kentucky. State still has come up with just seven fumbles this season, but 14 interceptions.

*The Dog defense began the home season with a shutout of Southern Mississippi (49-0), and ended it with a shutout of Vanderbilt (51-0).

*If takeaway pace is off this season, the rate of sacks has rocketed in a better direction. After scoring just 20 sacks in 13 games in 2013, these Dogs have 35 sacks (2nd SEC, 10th nationally) in eleven games for losses of 217 yards.

*The greatest defensive upgrade has been in the red zone. State has allowed just 13 touchdowns in 37 such situations, with 14 field goal attempts (nine made). This is the best red-zone defense not only in the SEC but the NCAA as of this week.

*This team is shredding the record book, including where it counts most. These Bulldogs have scored a school-record 429 points, surpassing the standard of 390 scored in 2000. There have been eleven State squads score 300 or more points, including all six of Mullen’s teams.

*The Bulldog offense leads the league with 512 yards per-game. Four of this season’s games are now among the top-20 in program records for yardage. The current rate will destroy the previous season record set only last season, of 434 yards per game.

*State has scored 20 touchdowns on plays that began beyond the 20-yard line, which does not include touchdowns by special teams or defense.

*No Bulldog has caught a pass in every game this year. Yet State leads the NCAA with 12 players who have caught a touchdown pass this season.

*MLB Benardrick McKinney’s numbers won’t blow anyone away. Unless, they look at the regular rotation of Bulldog defenders. Then McKinney’s team-best 60 tackles look more impressive along with 7.5 stops for losses and 3.0 sacks.

*McKinney has three fumbles recovered, of the team’s total seven.

*The junior has 233 career tackles, just about evenly split with 118 solos and 115 assists.

*OLB Beniquez Brown is right behind McKinney with 55 tackles, as well as 6.7 for losses and a pair of sacks. Soph Brown leads his elder in hurries and has an interception too.

*But both have to watch out for the Turtle, i.e. Holmes. The senior suddenly is tied with Brown in tackles at 55. In his previous three seasons Holmes had 40 total tackles.

*Holmes’ fumble return touchdown was his second score of this senior season. He fielded Kentucky’s on-sides kickoff and returned it 61 yards for touchdown to seal that victory.

*It’s not easy scoring stats when the offense runs the other way. Still DE Preston Smith is having an all-conference caliber senior season. Of his 41 tackles, 13.5 have been for losses with 8.0 sacks, both team-bests.

*Smith also has a team-leading 15 hurries, and has a sack in four of the last six games. And two passes that did get thrown ended up in Smith’s hands, including a pick-six against UAB.

*Smith also has blocked two placekicks. The first, against Southern Mississippi, was returned for a touchdown. He blocked a field goal attempt by South Alabama as well. Smith was SEC defensive lineman of the week an unprecedented three-straight weeks to begin this season.

*Smith’s block against USM was scooped and scored by S Jay Hughes, which as best records can show was the first field goal try returned for a Bulldog touchdown.

*Senior Hughes also had his first pick in the USM game, and has since added a second.

*CB Will Redmond and MLB Richie Brown are tied for the team-lead in interceptions with three each. Two of Redmond’s picks were game-clinchers at the goal line, against LSU and Arkansas. Brown got all three of his picks in one day, at home against Texas A&M.

*He isn’t winning awards yet, but scouts assuredly are noticing what OLB Matthew Wells does. Everything. The senior has 43 tackles, 8.5 for losses with 4.0 sacks and six hurries. But he’s also broken up eight passes in coverage, tied with CB Jamerson Love for team-most.

*His reputation is for run-stopping, but now DE Ryan Brown is getting after quarterbacks. Brown has 3.5 sacks and ten hurries, second-most on the squad. Brown has more tackles this season than his previous two years, 35 to 28.

*We can, and will, rattle through the numbers. It will save time and space to simply say, Dak Prescott is having the most successful season ever by a Bulldog quarterback for both wins and statistics.

*The first Bulldog ever with 3,000 yards total offense (rushing/passing) Prescott is up to 3,605 through eleven games; with at least two more opportunities to reach the 4,000 yard plateau.

*Prescott goes into game-twelve one touchdown pass shy of Tyler Russell’s 2012 record of 24. He is just 183 passing yards behind Russell’s record of 2,897 and thus on-track to be the program’s first 3,000-yard season passer.

*He is on a record passing pace at 61.4% completions, too, ahead of Chris Relf’s 60% in 2011.

*Sitting out most of last week’s second half snapped Prescott’s season-streak of 200-yard passing games, with ‘just’ 193 in two-and-a-half quarters.

*Prescott has blown past the season touchdowns-responsible-for (rushing/passing only) record of 26, with 35 already this year. And it doesn’t officially count his touchdown catch at South Alabama.

*He isn’t running on-purpose as often as in 2013, yet Prescott still has 12 rushing touchdowns which is tied for 8th-most in a State season. And at 891 yards Prescott ought to reach the 1,000 mark before the junior season ends. More on this in a moment.

*Per MSU statistics, Prescott has produced a first down on 58 of his 171 rushes (called or scrambles).

*Now for the career marks. Only two Bulldogs have produced more career yards than Prescott’s 6,686. The record is 7,097 by Don Smith (1983-86); and John Bond had 6,901 (1980-83).

*And no Dog is responsible for more touchdowns. Prescott already has produced 66 and done it in just 34 games. The record had been held by Smith with 52. And again, officially this category does not count touchdown passes of which Prescott has three so far.

*Prescott is the only Dog over 60% for career passing, at 60.1% right now. His 37 touchdown passes are third-most at MSU, five shy of Russell’s 42. And he is sixth in passing yardage.

*Most of all, Prescott is 14-4 as a starting quarterback.

*In his 18 starts, Prescott has directed a first-drive touchdown ten times.

*QB Damian Williams had just one SEC snap going into last week, in emergency relief at Alabama when Prescott’s helmet came off. Against Vanderbilt the true sophomore was 3-of-4 passing and had his first SEC passing touchdown.

*Williams had a rushing touchdown in overtime relief last year against Arkansas; and of course he started the 2013 Egg Bowl.

*Though his pace has slowed in November, either against a great Alabama defense or to let other backs run, RB Josh Robinson continues to roll up yards. He is the tenth Bulldog ever to rush for 1,000 yards in a season, and goes to Oxford with 1,084. The season record is 1,391 by Anthony Dixon in 2009.

*Robinson has posted the 13th 1,000-yard rushing season by a Bulldog. It has never been done by two Dogs in the same year, but with Prescott closing in history is possible.

*Robinson is averaging 102.1 yards a game this junior season, and can become the fifth Bulldog to top 100-per for a campaign.

*Robinson is netting 6.6 yards per rush, best by a Bulldog since Michael Haddix averaged 6.7 in 1982.

*Robinson has 11 rushing touchdowns, and needs one more to tie for top-ten status. The season record was set by Ballard in 2010 with 19.

*Robinson has become a regular part of the passing game, too. He has a career-best 26 catches for 361 yards, a 13.9 average. He had 15 total catches the first two State seasons.

*WR Jameon Lewis endured a long mid-season stretch battling back from an injury at LSU. Returning to the lineup at Alabama, in the last two games he has seven catches for 66 yards with a touchdown.

*Lewis is the tenth Bulldog with 100 career catches, and is in 9th place with 104. He needs 65 yards for top-ten status.

*Lewis is responsible for all three of the touchdown passes caught by Prescott these two seasons. Add in an option-throw to WR Joe Morrow last season and Lewis is 4-of-4 on such plays, all for touchdowns.

*Morrow had the best day of his senior season with five catches and 79 yards against Vanderbilt. Two of those balls went for touchdowns, of 27 and nine yards. Four of his five career touchdowns have been scored this season.

*He’s been Mr. Consistency all season, but it took the seventh league game before TE Macolm Johnson got his first SEC touchdown pass. It was a nine-yard shovel pass from Prescott for the first points of the Vanderbilt game.

*Johnson has 23 balls this senior season, 16 of them in SEC games. He’s averaging 15.6 yards on catches in league play.

*Johnson has caught 74 career passes for 1,098 yards and ten touchdowns.

*Senior WR Robert Johnson has 67 catches and 805 yards for his four varsity seasons.

*WR De’Runnya Wilson was held out of the Vanderbilt game after getting banged-up at Alabama. There he had caught eight balls for 91 yards, both matching season highs.

*Wilson doesn’t make the SEC’s top-ten in catches per game (league play only). But his catches count as he’s 6th in yardage per league game.

*Blaine Clausell and Justin Senior are the only Dogs with ten-straight starts in the same spots, left and right tackles respectively.

*PK Evan Sobiesk has become automatic on the short ranges, making his last six field goals and 9-of-10 on the season. His longest make is 37 yards, against Arkansas, one yard short of the career-long 38 at South Carolina last year. Sobiesk had a 34-yarder against Vanderbilt.

*State’s other two kickers have each missed their only tries, from 40 and 42 yards respectively. State has not had a 40-yard field goal made since P Devon Bell hit from that exact distance in the 2013 opener against Oklahoma State. All seven attempts from that range or longer in the 20 games since, by four kickers, have missed.

*Bell has suddenly developed a few issues with his punting and the average dropped to 42.5 yards. Fortunately coverage is a team strong point; only 13 of the 51 Bulldog punts have been returned, for 81 total yards.

*Bell also has a completed pass to his credit; a faked punt and throw for ten yards to move the chains against Tennessee-Martin.

*KO Logan Cooke has only 14 touchbacks in his 47 kickoffs; but that is mostly by design. State is allowing under 18 yards per kickoff return meaning a bit worse starting position than the 25-yard line. Often, much worse.


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