A Mississippi State-ment indeed. And again.
In the biggest game ever played at Davis Wade Stadium, Mississippi State came up bigger than it ever has in the football program’s history. And, in the process, showed , after a sloppy first half, exactly why they are the best team in the country right now, regardless of what the polls say Sunday afternoon.
Continuing a historic football run for the state of Mississippi, No. 3 Mississippi State was able to, after jumping out to a quick three-score lead, hold off No. 2 Auburn to win 38-23 and remain unbeaten at 6-0. A record crowd of 62,945 crammed into the on-campus stadium to witness MSU’s sixth straight win to open this season and ninth consecutive overall, the second-longest streak in the country behind Florida State’s 22.
To get to that point, however, the Bulldogs needed to overcome several self-inflicted wounds.
MSU committed four first-half turnovers, which in most cases would spell doom for even the best of teams. Thanks in large part to AU’s red zone ineptness, however, the giveaways only cost MSU 13 points. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs were able to turn a pair of Tiger turnovers into 14 first-quarter points.
The biggest turnover of the game, however, came courtesy of the visitors.
After taking a 31-20 lead on a field goal with just under 12 minutes left in the fourth quarter, Auburn, after a replay review upheld the call, fumbled the ball back to Mississippi State on the ensuing kickoff at the AU 15-yard line. Two plays later, a Josh Robinson one-yard touchdown run, his second score of the game, pushed the lead to 38-20 and essentially iced the game for the home team.
With the win, the Bulldogs remain, along with in-state rival Ole Miss (pending its game against Texas A&M), in the SEC West driver’s seat at 3-0. The task gets a little easier, but not by much, the next couple of weeks as they will travel to Lexington in two weeks to face a rejuvenated Kentucky team that’s 5-1 and play host a week later to a 3-3 Arkansas squad that’s playing much better than it’s record.
They also have a current résumé that screams “No. 1 team in the country.”
The past three games, MSU has beaten three teams — No. 8 LSU, No. 6 Texas A&M, No. 2 Auburn — that were ranked in the Top 10 at the time. Certainly the first two could’ve been and likely were overrated in retrospect, but those are still quality wins, particularly the night triumph in Death Valley. Is that enough for them to leapfrog No. 1 Florida State? The Seminoles have been hemorrhaging first-place votes the past few weeks, so it’s entirely possible.
In fact, it very well should happen as it’s hard to argue that the Bulldogs aren’t the best team in the country through the first seven weeks. And if you thought we’d be even arguing that at this point of the season, you’re lying.
Not only was the win key for poll and, eventually, College Football Playoff positioning, it also served as a nationally-televised infomercial for one Heisman candidate.
Entering the game, and thanks to Todd Gurley‘s suspension, Dak Prescott was the wagering stiff-armed favorite according to one prominent online book. And, yes, he tossed a pair of interceptions. The MSU quarterback, though, bounced back and put together a tremendous performance on a pressure-packed stage, totaling 367 yards of offense (246 passing, 121 rushing) and contributing two touchdowns apiece with his arm and legs.
The 121 yards marked the fourth time the past five games Prescott has topped the 100-yard plateau in rushing. It was part and parcel of a performance that, for the time being, solidified Prescott as the slight favorite for the 2014 Heisman.