Dak Prescott asserts himself as greatest quarterback in Mississippi State history

Dak Prescott is the best quarterback in Mississippi State history.

We all thought it, we all saw it and we all expected it. But now we can say it for certain: Dak is the greatest passer to have ever worn the Maroon and White.

YOGUDQQEKHWVJXS.20150919183434He already owned 20 total MSU records before his biggest and most recent one came Saturday, despite only have one season and change as the starting quarterback for the Bulldogs. Prescott’s legacy, while still being shaped, was already known by the middle of his junior season 12 months ago. Last summer, MSU fans voted on the All-Century team for the school, and while their current quarterback wasn’t on the ballot, the thought that he may already be the best anyway was certainly present.

Saturday night, if any debate existed, Prescott ended it.

With nine minutes left in the second half against Northwestern State, Prescott tossed a long, high ball down the left side of the field, finding sophomore receiver Donald Gray for a 45-yard completion. When Gray came down with the catch, Prescott came up with the record.

With 6,367 yards, Dak Prescott became MSU’s all-time leading passer. By the end of the game, that number grew to 6,382 yards. Prescott has thrown the Bulldogs 3.6 miles up and down fields across the country.

“He’s probably a pretty good player,” MSU head coach Dan Mullen joked after the game. “It shows what type of player he is. He’s a special player for us. Holding all of those school records is unbelievable and fantastic.”

For Prescott himself, he said the record will mean far more when his college career is over and he’s able to look back without having to also look ahead at the games on the horizon.

In fact, in the moment, he hardly even knew what was happening.

“I heard ‘And that makes Dak Prescott’ and then the crowd started screaming,” he recalled. “Then I got to the sideline and just heard, ‘Congrats, congrats,’ and I didn’t really know what the exact record was until later.”

ULNAKGVPLNNEKSS.20150919220259The play itself looked like the playground football-catching game ‘500’ where someone throws a ball up in the air and whoever catches it gets the points. Prescott, knowing he had Gray streaking down the field, trusted his receiver and tossed up a pass he knew his guy would catch.

“I ran a big post,” Gray said. “They talked about it all week, how we were going to take shots down the field. So I was pretty much expecting it. When I looked back, I saw his arm go back and I was like, ‘This is your moment.’ I went up for it and I tracked it down when it left his arm and tried to make a play.”

As he tried to make that play, the NSU defender was hanging off his shoulders, eventually called for interference. When the ball came to the pair, far down the left sideline, the cornerback’s hands were on Gray’s shoulder pads. Gray’s hands were on the ball, his fingertips securing the record-setting pass 45 yards away from the record-setting quarterback who had thrown it.

“I really didn’t know until I got up,” Gray said. “Right before the next play, everybody started cheering. I just kind of heard it. I was like, ‘I just caught the pass!’ I was excited … It was just the cheering, and all I heard was ‘Dak Prescott … something, something, something …’ I was just like, ‘Did I catch that?’ I was a part of history. I feel good.”

Said Mullen, “Donald Gray made an unbelievable catch. That was big.”

And with that unbelievable catch, Prescott officially took the throne. Someone one day will pass him the same way he passed Wayne Madkin, the man who held the record up until the second quarter Saturday night. But in this moment and for the foreseeable future, no one stands taller than Dak Prescott. He is, unquestionably, the best that’s ever been in the century of games played on Scott Field.

“He’s a program-changing player,” Mullen said after the record-setting night. “He really is. I say that not just in what he does on the field, but more what he does off the field. Mississippi State, I don’t know how many guys they’ve had like Dak Prescott that bring the fanfare he does. Whether it’s in Dawg Walk, or coming off the field or fans or all of that stuff. I don’t know if we’ve had a lot of those players where we have a player who is a national, household name. That’s really a program-changing deal.”

That’s always been the story on Prescott. The man he is off the field. The Leader, The Giver, The Star and The Son.

“He’s a good person and also our leader,” wide receiver Gabe Myles said of his quarterback. “It’s not like it’s just anybody breaking the record. It’s my teammate and a wonderful person. It just feels even better for him to have that.”

But Saturday is about what happened on the field. It’s about the touchdowns, the yards, the passes and the runs. It’s about wins, it’s about rankings and it’s about pure performances. There are no records awarded for being nice. They are awarded for production, and as it stands now, Prescott has 21 of them.

Myles can tell you why he likes Prescott as a person, teammate and captain. But being a receiver, he can also tell you why he likes Prescott as a quarterback.

“He understands his receivers. He understands our strengths and our weaknesses. He tries to accommodate for them,” Myles explained following a night in which he scored two touchdowns. “He’s gonna make sure he puts it in a place you can catch the ball. I trust Dak whenever he throws the ball.”

With 6,367 yards and counting, Prescott has earned that trust. And he’s got at least 10 games left to build more trust and more records.

“I’m happy for him,” Mullen said.

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MSU vs. Northwestern State: Keys to the game

On Saturday at 3:01 (need that extra minute of preparation!) Mississippi State hosts Northwestern State in a game broadcast on SEC Network. With a tough road stand ahead for the Bulldogs, this Saturday is a good chance to work some kinks out in front of a home crowd. With that in mind, here are three things that will propel MSU to victory.


XXZMHYOZAASTYFI.20150913033558Mississippi State has finished strong in both of its games this season, out-scoring opponents 36-13 in the second half and only allowing one touchdown. However, the Bulldogs haven’t gotten off to great starts in either contest. Combine the first four drives of each game for MSU’s offense and you see five punts, two fumbles and one touchdown. The combined first four drives for the opponents resulted in three touchdowns, a field goal and three punts, as well as one turnover on downs.

Against Northwestern State, MSU hopes to capitalize on its strong finish last week and start the game off strong. Getting early scores on offense and early stops on defense would go a long way in securing the confidence the coaches and players got back in the second half against LSU last weekend.


When MSU beat Southern Miss, the Bulldogs rushed for 205 yards. When MSU lost to LSU, the Bulldogs ran for 43 yards. Similarly, when USM lost to MSU, the Golden Eagles rushed for 102 yards. When LSU beat MSU, the Tigers ran for 266 yards. As much as football in general has had a growing emphasis on quarterback play lately, establishing the run and stopping run are still two of the most important keys to winning games.

For MSU this weekend, re-establishing the run after tough sledding against the LSU defensive front will be important to keeping the offense in rhythm, taking time off the clock and opening up the offense. Junior running back Brandon Holloway leads the team with 88 yards on only 12 carries, an average of 7.3 yards per rush. Continuing to involve him in the run game ought to help, as well as quarterback Dak Prescott. It would not be a surprise, either, to see redshirt freshmen running backs Aeris Williams and Dontavian Lee see significant opportunities against NSU behind starter Ashton Shumpert.


One of the clear strengths for MSU early on has been the defensive line, particularly the starting four of senior Ryan Brown and juniors Chris Jones, Nick James and A.J. Jefferson. The group has been in the backfield constantly through two games, led by Jefferson and his four tackles for loss totaling 23 yards of lost yardage for opposing teams. The duo of Jones and James in the middle at defensive tackle has proved formidable, while Brown on the edge has been leading the way as the elder of the group.

Against the NSU offensive line, the Bulldogs expect to have a distinct size advantage, something defensive line coach David Turner and defensive coordinator Manny Diaz will certainly attempt to exploit. Giving the starters opportunities to make plays and keeping them fresh by rotating players could help the Bulldogs get the success they need. If it works, State’s pass rush ought to set up the linebackers and secondary for turnover opportunities against an NSU team that’s turned the ball over three times in two games this year.

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Hevesy wants, sees improvement from MSU offensive line

Mississippi State’s offensive line, to hear them explain it, is still a work in progress. But the work, they do believe, is nearly finished as the progress portion of the equation has taken some quick leaps.

ARGIXZWSVYKHAEO.20150913033557When offensive line coach John Hevesy had to replace three starters off last year’s team, he was confident they’d be fine from a talent perspective. The issue was experience, being the starter as opposed to the backup, developing communication and chemistry and becoming comfortable with change as it comes from opposing defenses.

“We can get better,” Hevesy said. “The communication was one of the biggest things as a whole we need to get better with.”

They can get better, but to a certain degree he already thinks they have. Left tackle Rufus Warren said he’s improved even from the first game against Southern Miss to the second against LSU. Within that second game itself, MSU’s offense line performed far better in the second half compared to the first, an indication of improvements over time periods both long and short.

“We didn’t know what LSU was going to do,” Warren said of the first half playing against a team who had its season-opener canceled the week before. “They gave us a few things we didn’t see. We came out in the second half and we adjusted well and I got comfortable playing and got my jitters out of me … We were communicating well … We started going fast and the whole tempo thing is what caught LSU off-guard and we were able to score.”

Adjustments were a part of it, but more than anything it was the confidence, getting rid of the jitters, as Warren put it. The idea applied to new starters and old starters alike, as it’s a full starting five that has to mesh together, not just five individuals doing whatever they please.

Hevesy offered one play from Justin Senior as an example. A junior right tackle, Senior is a returning starter. He had an impressive 2014 campaign and knows what he’s doing. But, perhaps because it was a new group around him or maybe because he was just nervous for the first home game, he made an uncharacteristic mistake on Saturday.

On one third-and-ten play, Senior looked up and saw LSU’s defense just standing around. In situations such as those, linemen are supposed to just sit back and let the pressure come to them. Instead, Senior jumped at the closest defender to him and the play was basically over it before it had even started.

“He knows it,” Hevesy said. “It’s just in the heat of the battle, he jumped it and knew it immediately.”

A similar situation popped up on film on another of MSU’s third downs. Four out of the five offensive linemen had correctly identified the change LSU’s defense was making. Those four knew what to do, where to go, who to block and how to block them.

“And one,” Hevesy said, “was kind of like, ‘Oh crap.’”

RCXTPKHTPQXAQYS.20150913045305And one is all it takes, unfortunately, as the Tigers made the stop. It’s situations like those that both frustrate and encourage the line. On the one hand, mistakes are frustrating. On the other, those are correctable. As players and coaches alike have said, it’s an easily identified problem: communication. Talk more, and better, and they think they’ll be just fine.

The goal, Hevesy said, is for everything they practiced in the spring, everything they studied in the summer and everything they were drilled on in fall camp to come naturally in the throes of competition. As Hevesy put it, those things need to be in the mental bank and ready to be used at a moment’s notice.

His starting five is getting there in that regard, but they’re to the point now where they’ve had experience and repetitions. They have to start cashing in the work they’ve done.

“As I said after the game, the learning experience has to stop,” Hevesy said. “It’s got to stop being a learning experience. It’s got to be ‘I know.’”

If Warren is right, it looks like Hevesy may get his wish. Early problems against LSU, Warren believes, came from linemen thinking too much. Too much thinking leads to messing up practiced technique, making calls too late and missing cues that should be second-nature.

At halftime, the offensive linemen met as a group, went over their issues, and both as a unit and as an entire team, they took a collective breath and relaxed. They calmed down, played loose and for the first time all year, looked like the strong group they expected themselves to be before the season began.

MSU’s offense roared back to life in the second quarter, looking at times unstoppable in the fourth quarter as State’s defense had a performance to match their offensive counterparts. The loss was disappointing, but the Bulldogs are encouraged going forward. They believe they finally got their groove back. They just ran out of time Saturday.

“Now, we do know how good we are,” Warenn said. “Now, when we have to take it to the next level, playing Northwestern State can be a clean-up game for the offensive line, and Auburn and Texas A&M the week after that we just have to hit our strong points.”

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Bulldogs pleased with new-look defensive line

Preston Smith, defensive end, drafted in the second round by the Washington Redskins.

Kaleb Eulls, defensive tackle, on the 53-man roster for the New Orleans Saints.

P.J. Jones, defensive tackle, signed by the Miami Dolphins.

PPKPTOSHYGIDHGG.20150913031107Their mass exodus to the NFL left Ryan Brown, defensive end, the only returning starter on Mississippi State’s defensive line as the Bulldogs are breaking in three new starters beside him. Every new season means a new a team to go with it, as coaches often say, but MSU’s defensive line in 2015 takes the idea to something of an extreme. And two games into the year, their head coach Dan Mullen likes what he’s seen as his new number-ones, all juniors, transition from their two years as backups.

“I think they‘re coming along nicely,” Mullen said. “Those guys have really worked hard to be in that position. They’re understanding and taking that responsibility of going from a two to a one and what the standard of excellence is. They’re grasping onto that role.”

Two games in, it appears the group of four starters have the potential for great things, even if there is a bit of a learning curve. It’s a small sample-size, sure, but more plays than not it seems one or several of MSU’s linemen are in the opposing backfield. Running backs have been flattened trying to block them, quarterbacks have been surprised trying to run from them and ball carriers have been dropped on site attempting to get past them.

Brown is the leader, as any of his teammates will quickly share, and the three juniors all consider themselves jokesters of some sort. Defensive end A.J. Jefferson and defensive tackles Chris Jones and Nick James all have the natural ability to make people around them laugh. Of course, they’ve also got the ability to make people hurt, or at least regret trying to move the ball down the field. But they’re plenty nice off the field.

“We have a lot of different personalities in the group,” Jefferson said. “Obviously, me, Chris and Nick, we’re the goofy ones. Ryan is the serious one. He’s more of the grandpa of the group.”

Grandpa may be a fitting title for the stoic senior of the line. He’s always got a smile on his face off the field, but his work in practice and in games is what motivates his teammates.

“Ryan Brown,” Mullen said, “he’s steady. He’s been steady for a while. He’s a guy that always, from day one, he puts everything in.”

NQMXODMITBHXWPA.20150913062119Even now, Jefferson said he’s still learning from Brown, and whatever Brown has taught Jefferson has apparently been quite beneficial. The junior end played extensively last year, but he’s burst onto the scene in 2015 in his first season as a starter.

Jefferson has four tackles for loss, two sacks, and what many would pick as the highlight defensive play of the season so far when a Southern Miss running back who tried to block him was knocked to the side by Jefferson’s powerful stride, a moment Jefferson simply recalled by saying, “I felt something on my leg.”

Said Mullen, “A.J. has become a playmaking performer for us and we’re really pleased with what he’s done.”

On the inside, the duo of Jones and James looks like it could be becoming one of the best in the conference. Both have always had All-SEC, even All-American talent. The trick has been to tap into that talent.

The emergence of James, specifically, has been a pleasant surprise for the team. His first couple years on campus were a struggle, hardly playing as a freshman and then being redshirted in what would have been his sophomore year in 2013. But in 2014, James slowly got on the field more. In the spring of 2015, he started improving his approach. By this fall, he came out of camp the most level-headed, prepared, in-shape and motivated he’d ever been.

The growth paid off when James was named a starter for the first time in MSU’s season-opener.

“I’m really pleased with how Nick’s been playing in the course of the game,” Mullen said. “He’s learning how to take the improvements he’s made at practice and translate them onto the field.”

James has had help, too, from his good friend Jones, a man who has had a big start to the year himself after what he deemed an “embarrassing” sophomore campaign in 2014.

KWNRGPWFZSZXGLN.20150913031107Jones surprised everyone on the first play of the year when he lined up at linebacker. He surprised the Golden Eagles when he was a part of tackling them on just about every play of that opening drive. By the time LSU lined up against him, they knew to expect him, and even they couldn’t stop Jones as he racked up eight tackles in the game.

“You’re seeing Chris Jones, to me, trying to develop into being an every snap player,” Mullen said. “He makes some big plays, still makes some mistakes. We’ve talked to him. To become a dominating player, you show up every snap.”

The unit still has room for improvement, of course. None were pleased with allowing LSU and star running back Leonard Fournette the amount of success he had, and far more tests will certainly come over the course of the season. But with Brown as the leader and the three joking juniors as the muscle behind him, they’re ready for it. Together.

“I play hard, I see Nick James playing hard, I see A.J. and Ryan and we just try to keep each other going,” Jones said.

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Live thread: Dan Mullen press conference, NSU week

At 1 p.m. today, Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen will hold his weekly press conference. MSU lost to LSU last week and hosts Northwestern State University on Saturday.

Live updates to follow. In the meantime (or later time) enjoy last week’s episode of This Is Our Plate, the season debut at Bin 612.


UFJIEOFGJDQOBAQ.20150906045732And Dan Mullen is here. He opens his press conference by offering prayers to those at Delta State. Said MSU has learned the feeling of how scary it can be.

Moving onto football, Mullen says around the league and country, last week made clear that you have to show up and play your “A Game” no matter who the opponent is.

As for NSU specifically, Mullen says they blitz more than any team MSU has played so far this season. Offensively, says they have one receiver in particular who can cause trouble, as well as a couple speedy running backs.

Looking back at LSU, Mullen says, “that was a disappointing loss for us … We’ve got problems we have to fix … If we make that kick at the end of the game, we still have to fix those problems.”

Said making the kick would only have meant, “we’d be fixing those problems with big smiles on our face.”

As for the improved play in the second half, Mullen says the team finally settled down and just relaxed. Said a lot of the guys making their first SEC start had to adjust to that.

“I thought the guys settled down and played better. I’d love to tell you we made some miraculous adjustment to it all … We just needed to execute a little better and not worry.”

Mullen is asked if he wants to improve the rushing game, answers, “I don’t mind throwing. I just want to score points, I don’t care how we do it.”

He does see that NSU has struggled a little against the run in their first two games, especially with giving up big plays due to their aggressive style of defense.

As for Dak Prescott, Mullen says they saw one or two times in the LSU film that he could have decided to run and didn’t, but also noted several times where in the past Prescott would have run and instead he kept going through his reads and found a receiver. The point being, they’re not actively trying to keep Prescott from running.

“It’s not something, by design, we’re sitting here and saying ‘let’s do this way.’ I think it’s his progression in the passing game.”

Getting to the defensive side of the ball, Mullen has been very pleased with the defensive line, especially the starting four, three of whom are in starting roles for the first time.

“Those guys have really worked hard to be in that position. They’re grasping onto that role.”

Mullen says WR De’Runnya Wilson (wrist) is “fine,” adding that he practiced yesterday. Wilson had a big second half, largely as a result of some tweaks in the approach.

“We did make the adjustment to move him and try to get the 1-on-1 matchup with him on the field.”

At the running back position, Mullen says, “I thought they’ve played pretty well,” but said there have also been a few critical mistakes. Said Ashton Shumpert’s fumble was one, as well as a couple missed blocking assignments within the group.

As for the redshirt freshmen running backs Aeris Williams and Dontavian Lee, “we think those two young guys are talented, we just want to make sure they’re prepared.”


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Dak Prescott on life as an All-SEC QB off the field

A small group was walking up the steps to Mississippi State’s football facility, two cameramen, a reporter, a media relations representative and a few family members all focused on the person in the front wearing the maroon No. 15 Mississippi State uniform.

On the inside, a young man watched and waited, knowing he was moments away from meeting someone special.

“Oh, man,” he said to no one in particular as the group outside neared the glass doors. “I’m going to have to try not to cry.”

In walked the center of attention in the No. 15 uniform – Campbell Dale, a five-year-old MSU fan battling cancer and visiting through Make-A-Wish. Up stepped the man inside so anxious to meet Campbell – Dak Prescott, MSU’s star quarterback who had a signed football ready to give to Campbell.

“I like your jersey,” Dak told Campbell as he handed him the ball.

unnamedCampbell smiled and hid his face in his dad’s arms, hit with a fit of shyness to be approached by someone like Dak in such a way.

A week later, Dak found himself in the same lobby as he walked in to go to the locker room and change for practice, stopped briefly by an older man who saw Dak’s face and immediately asked for a picture.

Weeks before, Dak was at Wal-Mart, stopped on as many aisles as he turned down for similar picture and autograph requests, Wonderbread and milk cartons serving as the backdrop.

“If that’s what it takes to go get groceries, I guess I’ve got to do it,” Dak joked.

That’s the balance for him, though. In many instances, with children like Campbell and others, Dak is the one who feels lucky to have the interaction.

In many more and mostly unplanned instances, he’s the one who has more to give. None of those pictures have become his twitter or facebook profile picture, though the internet is littered with hundreds – if not pushing thousands – of MSU fans who feature their face next to Dak’s in their picture of choice.

But, when people aren’t distracted by his face, his No. 15 jersey or the football he’s throwing and carrying up and down fields across the southeast, they can see similar mementos of special interactions adorning his arms. Rubber bracelets, wristbands and the like cover his wrists at most times, nearly all of which were given to him by children he’s met over his career at MSU. He can tell you the stories, if you ask, what their names are, where they’re from and what fight it is in life he’s encouraged them to continue battling.

That’s what’s important to him about his new and quickly-found fame. That’s what mattered as he rocketed from new and unknown starter to Heisman favorite, seemingly in a matter of weeks.

He’ll stop and take pictures with anyone who asks, provided he has the time, and sometime he even pauses for a snapshot when he doesn’t have the time. Though, by the latter portion of the season last year, it became necessary for Dak and his family to take a van after home games from the locker room to wherever he or they were parked. Otherwise he wouldn’t see them (or his bed) until the wee hours of the night.

If it ever gets annoying to him, he generally doesn’t let it show. He knows the moments are special to those who ask for them.

“People are going to want pictures, people are going to want autographs, stuff like that,” he said. “I just do what I can while getting my business done and try to handle it the best I can with a smile on my face.”

QYNLDEORTJSWHGF.20150913031107There’s a difference, though, between the adults hovering outside his locker room and the kids who find their way to Dak. Big or small, boy or girl, healthy or not, the children are what matter to Dak, even if it does sound like a rehearsed answer at a beauty pageant.

He was a kid once, and part of him still is. It’s why he cherishes the chance in the summer to go the Manning passing Academy and work with high school quarterbacks, middle school hopefuls and elementary kids who just need an excuse to run around outside.

“If I was a kid in that situation and I had a chance to see a college athlete or a role model and shake their hand and get their picture, it would have meant the world to me at that time,” he said. “For me to be on the other side of it, to give a smile or a high five or take a picture with somebody, that’s so effortless and it goes a long way.”

In an offseason of both highs and lows, the biggest smile captured on Dak’s face the last eight months came from his time in his home state of Louisiana, teaching kids how to play football.

Archie Manning, despite being a former Ole Miss quarterback himself, related the trouble he had in not respecting the young quarterback helping lead the camp when he talked with Head-to-Head Radio just before the season began.

“You’re my favorite,” he recalled telling Dak.

“You can’t tell anybody that,” Dak responded.

It’s not hard to guess that Dak had the same big smile on his face.

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Mullen, MSU crushed by loss, but finally find rhythm

For a second, it looked like Davis Wade Stadium wasn’t one of the toughest places in America to play anymore. For a second, it looked like Mississippi State had lost the swagger it had in 2014. For a second, it looked like Dak Prescott had been figured out.

For most of a half, really, it all looked true.

KWNRGPWFZSZXGLN.20150913031107Then, finally, for seemingly the first time all season, MSU started clicking again. The defense was controlling the line of scrimmage, constantly spending time in LSU’s backfield. The offense was rolling as Prescott racked up the majority of his 335 passing yards in the game’s final two quarters.

MSU out-scored LSU 19-7 in the last three quarters, as a matter of fact. As impressive and successful as the Tiger rushing attack was behind sophomore Leonard Fournette, LSU only managed one touchdown when starting a drive on its own side of the field, the one score they got for the entirety of the second half.

But for all the seconds it seemed MSU was down and the doubters were right, and for all the seconds it looked like MSU had re-captured the magic and proved them wrong, it was just a few more seconds that they needed. And they didn’t get them.

“Losing absolutely sucks,” Dan Mullen conceded after the game.

MSU was great in the second half, he did admit when asked. But his team is far past the point of moral victories. He doesn’t care that an early season loss is easier to recover from than a late season loss. He doesn’t care if he loses on Thursday or Saturday, this way or that way.

“I don’t care when you do it. Early, late, morning or night, by a lot, by a little. Losing absolutely sucks.”

NADGDUUQCEFBWGV.20150913031107It’s an odd type of frustration for Mullen and his team who came out tight and got beat bad in the first half, then came out loose and confident and generally dominated the second half, coming within seconds, within one play here or another there of making that magical comeback victory.

The 51-yard field goal attempt stands out as the game-deciding play, and as a technicality it was, but there were plenty of times the game could have been decided earlier. For LSU, it could’ve been any of the several big plays called back due to a penalty. For MSU, it could’ve been the two-point conversion attempt, which came so close to tying the game. It could’ve been a dropped pass that would have gone for a touchdown. Or it could just be a missed tackle on one of Fournette’s big runs.

That’s how football is in the SEC West, though.

“These types of games,” junior defensive lineman Chris Jones said, “It’s always going to be an old-school fight. You punch, I punch, you punch, I punch. The first person who flinches is who loses. That was a battle.”

Unknowingly, Prescott echoed the words of his coach when asked about the final back-and-forth punches.

“It sucks to lose, obviously,” a bit of the night’s emotion slipping out through his otherwise cool demeanor. “I’m sure if we make that field goal or we convert on that two-point conversion or whatever we do and we come out with the win, it’s the greatest game, it’s the greatest feeling. But right now it doesn’t feel so hot.”

It didn’t feel good at all for Prescott, for Jones, for Mullen and for any of the coaches and players they returned to in the locker room when they left their time at the podium. But they had a better moment in that locker room just a couple hours before.

Mullen left the sideline at halftime clearly aware of what his team needed. He’d seen them play what he called “just a weird game” in the season-opening win at Southern Miss, and he’d seen them take the field that night clearly a little off, seemingly uncomfortable in the home-opener on ESPN in front of what was announced as the second-biggest crowd in MSU history.

“Relax. Take a deep breath,” Mullen told the team in the locker room before the third quarter. “That was our halftime adjustment.”

He got what he wanted. In the first half, MSU’s longest drive was for 37 yards. It was the last one and the only one that got any points, a field goal with 44 seconds left. MSU had multiple three-and-outs on offense, including one drive that went for negative 15 yards.

QYNLDEORTJSWHGF.20150913031107Then MSU came back onto the field, held LSU’s offense to a three-and-out of their own, and MSU’s offense responded with its longest drive of the game. Two of MSU’s next four drives went for more than 80 yards and a touchdown each.

“It was the first time all season we were in a rhythm,” Mullen said.

It came from Mullen telling his players to relax. It came from his reminder that they are scholarship players, too. They can make the plays.

It also came from Prescott, the captain and quarterback, who found a way to adjust, to make those plays happen.

“I feel like the leader of the team and it was important for me to get the guys going,” Prescott said. “We scored, what, three points in the first half? That’s not like us … That second half, that was us. That really felt good.”

The crowd got back in the game, too. The 60,000-plus in the stadium had been waiting since kickoff for a reason to explode, a ticking timebomb of cowbells and yells looking for a reason to blow up. When MSU’s defense came out and controlled the majority of the second half, and when MSU’s offense found its rhythm for the first time in 2015, that clanga-bomb went off.

Tweeted Pete Thamel from Sports Illustrated, “Everyone in the stadium knows the ball is going to Fournette. Can Mississippi State stop it? It. Is. Loud.”

KQSMXEDIJKIZBUR.20150913031107And MSU did stop it. Then they got their turn, one last chance in a game of chances both seized and squandered. In a hurry, MSU drove 60 yards down the field. Time was against them, but the crowd was for them and it appeared momentum was, too.

But, in the final moment, the hill proved too tall. All those seconds finally ran out, just when MSU had hit its stride. One more play, maybe, and MSU could have pulled it off. But they didn’t. The seconds were gone, and so was the victory, replaced with the sting of loss.

It’s a long season, though, and despite the score, the Bulldogs think they finally got their juice back.

“The best part about football is we’ve got another game in seven days,” Prescott said.

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Five things to know before MSU’s first game weekend of the year

When you’re around something every day you don’t really notice as slight changes happen. It’s because of that I always find myself surprised when people come back to town saying, ‘Wow, Starkville has changed so much!’ On the surface, it looks the same to me as it did a year ago, but when I start going through all the new businesses, construction and assorted whosits and whatsits, I realize it really has changed.

Just last weekend, I was talking to a friend who moved away two months ago and was amazed at how much has already happened just since then. And there’s even more coming.

Any way, the point of all this is that we’ve compiled a list of things to know for the first football weekend at Mississippi State since last November. Some of it you know, some of it perhaps not. Some of it is new and some just a reminder. And some of it is just recommendations from deep within my heart and/or stomach.

As always, my highest recommendation is to visit hailstate.com/gameday for all the information you could need on parking, maps, times, tailgating and the like.


unnamedIf you’re planning on enjoying Friday’s Bulldog Bash festivities (I know I am), here’s a quick rundown of the schedule that afternoon and evening in the Cotton District.

2:00: C-Spire Maroon Market opens

3:00: Cornhole Tournament

6:15: Dawg Rally

7:00: Chasing Edom on Clark Beverage Main Stage

7:45: X-Ambassadors

9:00: Mister Wives

10:30: Local Natives


If you park off campus, it should be noted that the grass areas in front of and across the street from The Mill are no longer available for parking due to construction and the opening of The Mill (hey, that happened, too!), but there is now some new parking, including a multi-story parking deck, on the back side of The Mill and the Courtyard being built beside it.

Also, I don’t know what happened, but avoid North Nash St. at all costs. I assume the city had good for reason for the construction done on the portion of Nash between University Drive and Highway 82 (making it safer for children and families is my guess) but it didn’t help the traffic on a street already somewhat difficult to navigate. I have a certain level of trouble getting through on random Tuesday afternoons and I imagine it will be borderline impassable on a game weekend, especially with Bulldog Bash. If that’s how you get into or out of the Cotton District and campus areas, take Herbert Street or Old West Point Road instead.

Oh, and if you need a ride to the game from wherever you park, there is a full listing of shuttle pick-up and drop-off locations on the gameday website. Take advantage.


As it stands now, the weather this weekend is supposed to be what we in the business call “perfect.” Writing this ensures that it will rain all weekend instead, but if the forecast holds, then you’re going to want to spend some time outside beyond the game and Bulldog Bash. There is plenty of outdoor seating at restaurants in towns, but my sincere recommendations go out to both the patios and the menus at The Veranda, Harvey’s and The Grill.

My favorite patio in Starkville – and what I’m guessing is the biggest – is at Bin 612 in the Cotton District. They’ve got a wealth of seating out back and in the front where you can watch all the action happen around you. If you want to go to Bulldog Bash but don’t want to stand all night, I often like to get to Bin 612 early in the day, find a table and eat chicken nachos and pizzas as the events unfold.

If new music isn’t your thing but you’d still like to hear a live band, ‘80s cover band The Molly Ringwalds will be playing at DawgHouse Sports Grill on Main Street Friday night. I recommend the dipping trio and the quesadillas just as much as I recommend The Molly Ringwalds.

Oh, and on Sunday, make sure to get downtown for Bulldog Brunch and Browse as put on by the Starkville Convention and Visitors Bureau. The French Waffle at Restaurant Tyler is among my favorite breakfast items in this galaxy.

Lastly, for the students: you can now use your flex dollars on your meal plan to buy concessions in the north endzone. Neat deal.


NDLXFQWJUQJEWQG.20141004205939OK, the first thing here isn’t a time, but this is the best category for it to fit under. Saturday is a White Out, which is nice to have so early in the year. Polo, T-shirt or – GASP – jacket? Whatever you wear, shoot for white. It looks great on TV at night.

Now, a quick rundown of events around the stadium Saturday.

4:00 p.m.: Roads close

5:15: C-Spire Fan Zone opens

6:00: Davis Wade Stadium opens

6:15: Dawg Walk begins in The Junction

8:15: Team entrance/new entrance video debuts (don’t miss this)

8:20: Kickoff


To start with some bigger news here, MSU released its brand new gameday app today. I got a chance to preview it last week and it’s fantastic. Great for keeping up with scores around the conference and seeing what’s happening on campus. As the release describes it, “the app will provide fans with live stats, play-by-play, and scores from around the top 25 and the Southeastern Conference, along with stadium and campus maps that will provide real-time parking and traffic updates.”

Just search for “Mississippi State Game Day” on your phone.

On game days, the dissemination of information is constant. Often, things change and social media is the easiest way to find out. First, a list of gameday-related follows for pre and post-game on Twitter. Secondly, a list of in-game follows for game-related info. These accounts will get you everything from traffic updates to passing yard totals.























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Four college graduates leading the way for MSU football

Terms like “student-athlete” are easy to make fun of in a billions-of-dollars business like college football, and the quips are often understandable. Given how much time college athletes spend on their sport between practice, workouts, games and travel, the easiest of jokes says that, at the least, the order of the words ought to be reversed.

GTRKEWSFZPPVGVL.20141011224234It took several years to make it happen, but Dan Mullen is doing his part at Mississippi State to end some of those jokes. Like any football team in the country, Mullen’s has academic standards which must be met in order to maintain eligibility and continue playing. At times, players have not met those and have thus not been allowed to play. However, in other circumstances, MSU’s players have not only fulfilled the requirements, they’ve far exceeded them.

Every time Mullen’s Bulldogs take the field this season, four of them will do so as college graduates – SEC football players who have already earned their degrees. To boot, all four of them are starters, one on defense and three on offense, all of whom are continuing their education as they continue their careers.

“We’re not just trying to keep guys eligible, or push them through or do the bare minimum,” Mullen said. “We love for guys to graduate in three and a half years. If the plan works out and you’re a guy who happens to redshirt, you have the opportunity to go earn a master’s degree. That’s really a plan we’ve had in place. It takes a couple years to get it rolling and implemented. Now that it is, we expect all our guys to get their degree.”

The plan is pretty straightforward. Enroll in June before your freshman year, take class in the June and July terms, take a standard full-time load in the fall and spring semesters, return to summer school the next June and July terms, then continue the cycle until you find yourself walking across the graduation stage and shaking hands with the President, diploma in hand.

If you manage to get to campus early like senior quarterback Dak Prescott did, the plan moves even faster and gets even easier. Prescott graduated high school early, enrolling at MSU in January of what would have otherwise have been his last semester of high school. By the time Prescott was in Miami for the Orange Bowl this past December, he was a junior in his first year as the full-time starter and he already had a diploma to hang on his wall – or locker, if he prefers.

For him, the benefit has been more than just finishing his education and having an opportunity to get his master’s. After the last couple years of record-breaking performances, Prescott has become a combination of hero and celebrity around Starkville and MSU’s campus, making things like attending class, shopping for groceries and going out to eat a much more difficult ordeal. With his undergraduate education complete, he’s been able to take all of his classes online, offering him an unperturbed academic experience, while also allowing himself more time to study film, work on his game and, of course, do interviews and sign autographs.

“It means a lot [to have graduated],” Prescott said. “I’m taking grad school classes now and they can be a little time-consuming and busy, but I can also focus a lot of my time right here with the coaching staff getting in the gameplan and working on plays and stuff like that.”

The NFL is the next step in the plan for Prescott, one of the team’s four captains, but as far back as his sophomore season, he’d tell anyone who listened that he knows the game of football owes him nothing. Professional football may work out. But if not, he’s prepared for the career of coaching he plans to have either way.

Senior blocking for Prescott in last season's Orange Bowl

Senior blocking for Prescott in last season’s Orange Bowl

While his accelerated track to graduation protected him off the field, the people who protect Prescott on the field have had the same success. Two of MSU’s offensive linemen are playing the 2015 season with degrees in hand as guard Justin Malone and tackle Justin Senior join Prescott as MSU graduates.

Senior’s story is particularly impressive, as he’s only a junior. Enrolling a semester early after moving to Starkville from Canada, Senior followed the direction his mother and Mullen had both given him.

When asked why he cared so much to finish his degree so soon, Senior scoffed a bit at the premise of the question, considering it a natural thing for anyone to be devoted to academics.

“I wouldn’t say I necessarily stressed graduating early,” Senior said. “It’s more like something that should be done. My mom put that in me from a young age. You’ve got to get your grades. School is school. You’ve got to get good grades and you’ve got to finish.”

Rather than work on a master’s, Senior is actually getting a second undergraduate degree, pairing sociology with the political science he’s already finished and enjoyed. Looking back, his favorite teachers helped guide him, Whit Waide and Dr. Brian Shoup in the political science department. Looking ahead, Senior isn’t sure what he wants to do after football, whenever it ends, but he did say he’s pretty sure he doesn’t want to sit at a desk all day.

“A job like journalism, there’s variety in your day,” Senior remarked to the reporter interviewing him, before continuing to joke, “it doesn’t look that hard. Just talk to people all day.”

Senior lines up on Saturdays at right tackle, while three spots over, Malone is the starter at left guard. Senior knows the team as a whole has been getting better grades lately – including an all-time high team GPA during the 2014 fall semester – but he’s not at all surprised to find that exactly half of the team’s current graduates reside on the line.

“The offensive linemen, we always get good grades, anyway,” Senior joked.

Malone, right, blocking against Southern Miss in the 2015 season opener

Malone, right, blocking against Southern Miss in the 2015 season opener

Malone, a senior communication major who has been named to the All-SEC Academic Honor Roll, is a Madison, Mississippi native who signed in the same class as Prescott. While he didn’t enroll early, he still managed to graduate well before his eligibility was out.

He’s proud of his accomplishments on the field, which are many, but that degree means more than any of it to Malone, the first in his family to graduate. His mom, he began ticking off on his fingers, his dad, his sister – none graduated college. Although, he’s quick to brag on his older brother who is on track to get his degree soon, joining his little brother in the world of college graduates.

“I was the first person in my family to graduate,” Malone said. “So, why not, if they’re going to keep paying for my education, get another degree?”

Which is exactly what he’s doing. At 22 years old, Malone is still trying to figure out what to do with his life when football ends. With a passion for writing, he hopes to pen a novel one day. He’d like to run his own business, too. And especially, he wants to travel.

“I’ve been a lot of places in the United States,” he said. “I want to go to South America, Europe, Asia. Just travel the world.”

Finally comes the man up for just about every academic award the school, conference and all of college football have to offer – senior cornerback and team captain Taveze Calhoun. A fifth-year senior who redshirted as a freshman, Calhoun is the perfect example of the type of players Mullen is trying to mold. When MSU’s head coach talks about taking high school kids and developing them into men who are ready for the real world, whatever it may hold, Calhoun is his poster boy.

A three-year starter who has been on academic honor roll every year he’s been on campus, Calhoun was barely recruited out of high school. In fact, he only made it to MSU when a spot in the signing class opened up at the last minute. Mullen still remembers the day he went to Morton, Mississippi to see one of the most highly-recruited players in the southeast, a teammate of Calhoun’s, when the principal of the high school pulled Mullen aside.

“This is the guy you want,” the principal informed Mullen after telling him about the lesser-known Calhoun.

Calhoun, left, on the field with fellow captains before MSU's season opener

Calhoun, left, on the field with fellow captains before MSU’s season opener

Four years and a few months later, Calhoun walked across the stage at Mississippi State, accepted his diploma and shook the President’s hand. This fall, classes and practices both continue for the team captain.

“Every time you get an opportunity,” Calhoun said, “you should make the best of it. Football is not forever … I don’t want to be the guy to come back and say, ‘I wish I would have done this.’ I want to give 100 percent in everything I do in my time at Mississippi State, because it is limited. I don’t want to have any regrets. I gave it all in the classroom and on the football field. No regrets.”

Calhoun’s playing career may last another 10 years. It might end with this, his senior season. As he himself said, football isn’t forever, either way, and all it takes is one play to bring it all crashing down. But Calhoun is prepared for the day he has to take the pads off for the last time, whenever it may come.

Everything football gave to him, Calhoun plans to give right back when his time arrives.

“I want to be a coach or a mentor,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of coaches throughout my high school and college career who were important in my life and made a difference in my life. They encouraged me to do good in school and in football. I want to give the same thing to some kids. A lot of people I know, they lack that and kind of go down their own path. If I could reach one or two people like somebody reached me – I think the greatest thing you can do for somebody is impact their life in a positive way. That’s something I want to do after football.”

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Live thread: Dan Mullen press conference, LSU week

Today at 1 p.m., Dan Mullen will hold his weekly press conference in advance of hosting LSU. Mississippi State beat Southern Miss last weekend, while LSU’s game against McNeese State was canceled due to weather in the area.

Live updates from Mullen’s time at the podium to follow.


TCUPOVUPDVPUGAC.20141123025642Mullen is here.

“It’s going to be an exciting atmosphere on campus, rocking environment … The first conference game of the year is always such a big game. It can really catapult you or put you behind the 8-ball.”

Mullen says one of the things he’s looking for this week is for the young guys to make big improvements from last week. Said older guys more or less are how they are, but that younger ones who played for the first time get to watch themselves on tape for the first time and need to learn from it.

Asked about whether MSU or LSU has advantage because MSU played and LSU didn’t, Mullen said he’s not sure one way or the other is better.

“I think there’s probably advantages on both sides and disadvantages on both side. It doesn’t go one way or the other.”

Mullen says they’ve planned for LSU off last year’s LSU, Alabama and even USC game tape looking for schemes to expect from LSU defense, considering LSU has a new defensive coaching staff.

Asked about Brandon Holloway, Mullen said the junior running back is known for speed but could handle being an every-down back if MSU had to depend on him for it. Unlikely to happen, and he’s more used for speed, but Mullen likes what Holloway is able to do.

Moving onto offensive line, Mullen says, “I thought we played solid up front. I don’t know that we were great. I don’t know that we were poor. I think there’s a lot we can improve on. For three new starters, I think we handled the situation pretty well.”

More scouting for LSU: Mullen says preparing for LSU running back Leonard Fournette is difficult. Big, strong and fast, and there’s no tape on him from this year. Makes it hard, too, because MSU doesn’t have a running back quite like him.

On defensive tackle Nick James: “I really think that’s the best I’ve seen him play, including practice.”

Mullen said he’s proud of how far James has come. Said he’s an emotional guy, which they don’t want to take away, “but he’s got to learn how to channel his emotions into play-making instead of doing silly stuff.”

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