Rapid Reaction: Prescott dominates in convincing win over Texas A&M
The Mississippi State Bulldogs put forth their best performance of the Dan Mullen era in a 48-31 win over No. 6 Texas A&M on Saturday afternoon in Starkville. The Bulldogs had lost 15 straight games to ranked opponents entering this season, but have now won back-to-back games against top 10 foes to rise to the top of the SEC West standings, likely earning a top in next week’s top 10 as well.
Here’s a couple of quick thoughts on Mississippi State’s lopsided victory over Texas A&M:
What it means: This win means so much for Mississippi State, but first and foremost it means this team is a true contender to win the SEC West. If the Bulldogs play this complete of a game in their five remaining West contests, they are good enough to win all five of those games. The win means Dan Mullen is truly coming into his own as a head coach, shedding the perception he cannot win games against ranked foes. It means Dak Prescott is truly the best quarterback in the SEC, and at the moment a realistic contender to win the Heisman Trophy. The win means the Bulldogs secondary is not as suspect as we once thought, shutting down the SEC’s most explosive passing attack. Lastly, the win means Mississippi State is as complete a team as anyone in the conference, with veterans carrying the load for every position group. The Bulldogs returned most of their starters from last season, and won this game without their top wideout (Jameon Lewis) and without the anchor of their offensive line (Dillon Day). It would not be a stretch to say Mississippi State’s win over A&M was the most impressive win by any team this season.
What I liked: The Bulldogs established their stout rushing attack early in this game, and it opened up the entire offense for the rest of the contest. Tailback Josh Robinson torched the Texas A&M defense for more than 70 yards in the first 20 minutes of the game, and Prescott had repeated success on designed quarterback runs, especially in the red zone. Even backups like Brandon Holloway (76 yards on five carries) had career days running the ball down the throat of the Aggies defense. As a result, the middle of the field was wide open for the Mississippi State passing game all afternoon, and Prescott responded by completing 9 of his first 10 passes, eventually throwing for 259 yards in the victory. The Mississippi State rushing attack controlled the tempo of the game, contributing to a lack of rhythm from A&M’s offense for most of the contest. The Bulldogs held an edge in time of possession, and their offense was in control from start to finish, thanks in large part to their success on the ground.
Who’s the man: Dak Prescott is the man after another Heisman-caliber performance against a top 10 opponent. He threw for more than 200 yards for the fourth straight game, rushing for more than 75 yards in all four of those contests. He also accounted for five of Mississippi State’s seven touchdowns with two through the air and three more on the ground. Prescott was near-automatic as a passer, and earned positive yards on nearly a dozen designed quarterback runs, forcing the A&M defense to respect both of his dual-threat abilities. The Mississippi State offense did not have quite as many explosive plays as it did against LSU, but it seemed to execute long, sustained drives every time it touched the ball, a credit to Prescott’s command of the offense. The redshirt junior is a prototypical leader, and even watching his rapport with his teammates on the sidelines is evidence for his meaning to this Bulldogs team.
Key Play: Mississippi State linebacker Richie Brown flew under the radar in the Bulldogs first three games of 2014, but he introduced himself to America with interceptions on back-to-back Kenny Hill passes in the second quarter with A&M still in striking distance. His first pick came off a dropped pass by an Aggies receiver, but the second pick was simply a great play on a poorly thrown ball by Hill over the middle of the field. Those two interceptions bought the Bulldogs time to extend their lead before the half, and Hill was never able to recover in his worst performance of the year. Brown’s nose for the football set a tone for the Mississippi State defense, and the momentum the defense gained from back-to-back picks changed the entire tone of the game moving forward.
What’s next: The Bulldogs will turn the page from this win to a third straight game against a top 10 team next week when they host No. 5 Auburn in Davis Wade Stadium. Better yet, the College GameDay crew may not even have to leave the Magnolia State after today’s visit to Ole Miss, as the MSU-Auburn matchup appears to be an early favorite to host the popular pregame show next week. Both teams will be ranked in the top 10 in the nation, and if Mississippi State can put forth a strong showing in that game, its national perception as a true contender will be further solidified.