Mississippi State

Mississippi State riding high after A&M win, Bama awaits

Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen looks on during the Texas A&M game in Starkville Saturday. Mississippi State won 35-28. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen looks on during the Texas A&M game in Starkville Saturday. Mississippi State won 35-28. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis) Associated Press

It’s been a while since the Mississippi State Bulldogs felt like they did after Saturday’s win. In fact, they might not have felt that way at any point last year during a 9-4 season in Dak Prescott’s swan song.

For just one afternoon, Saturday felt like 2014 again for Mississippi State fans. The Bulldogs just upset No. 4 Texas A&M and did so convincingly despite the final scores of 35-28 final. It was complete domination on both sides of the line of scrimmage and MSU’s inexperienced, beaten-down team had something to smile about.

That was made possible after MSU’s win against Samford a week prior, head coach Dan Mullen believes. MSU hadn’t played well in their 56-41 homecoming victory. The offense had a big afternoon with a school-record performance, but the defense was equally as bad.

Just winning that game did wonders.

“That win against Samford was a big confidence boost for our team,” Mullen said. “I think they’ve really built off of that, especially defensively. There was a positive feeling about winning and then a little negative feeling about our performance. You add those things together and it resulted in a positive performance.”

Now the Bulldogs try parlay the success of the last two weeks into an upset of the nation’s No. 1 team at Alabama. The sheer talent on the roster alone makes it a steep hill to climb for MSU.

“They have guys that are probably redshirting and sitting the bench that would start for most teams in the country,” Mullen said. “We’ve got to come out and play a very clean game. They don’t make a lot of mistakes and execute at a high level.”

Freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts has been a big reason for Alabama’s success this season. In his first year in college football, Hurts has weathered the storm in tough environments and led the team to an undefeated start.

Hurts has already racked up 635 rushing yards and a team-leading 10 touchdowns while passing for another 1,685 yards and 12 touchdowns to six interceptions. Mullen knows plenty about the Texas native after recruiting him heavily last season and getting the Bulldogs in contention with the Tide for his signature.

“I’m not surprised that he’s being able to play right away. He’s a quarterback that has that “It” factor,” Mullen said. “He’s a guy that can go out there and lead as a freshman with the intangibles. Those are the things that stood out about him that we looked at.”

Mullen giving Johnson freedom

After recruiting and coaching Brian Johnson at Utah in college, Mullen felt strongly about his former player joining him as a quarterbacks coach when the Bulldogs loss Les Koening three years ago.

Johnson was offensive coordinator for the Utes just a few years ago and has a bright future ahead of him and Mullen has already seen the signs. On Saturday, most of the game was called by Johnson in the booth, something that Mullen has handled for most of his career in Starkville.

“I’m very hands on with the offense, but we all are. We have a staff that works well and are very comfortable with each other,” Mullen said. “Brian always has a lot of input on what we’re calling.

Fitzgerald, Rankin earn SEC Honors

Fitzgerald and left tackle Martinas Rankin were honored by the SEC on Monday.

The quarterback became just the third player in SEC history with over 200 yards passing and 100 yards rushing. He passed for 209 yards and two scores and rushed for 182 yards and two touchdowns.

Rankin was named the SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week after three knockdown blocks against the A&M front that leads the nation in tackles for loss and sacks. MSU gave up just three tackles for loss in the game and no sacks to a unit that averages over three sacks per game.