When you think of this year’s Mississippi State Bulldogs, you think of players like Dak Prescott, Jameon Lewis, Chris Jones, Benardrick McKinney, and so on.

Those players all played a part in MSU’s convincing 49-0 win over Southern Miss Saturday night, but it was the Bulldogs’ role players, guys like Fred Ross, Nick Griffin, Preston Smith and Jay Hughes, who made the biggest impact on the game.

By now, most fans know about Prescott’s career night, setting personal records for yards and touchdowns through the air in a single game. But what about the guys catching those passes? Lewis had just three catches for 25 yards, playing a marginal role in Mississippi State’s passing offense. Ross, meanwhile, had three catches for 61 yards and two touchdowns, two more than he scored all of last season.

Josh Robinson led the Bulldogs with 14 carries for 87 yards, good for 6.2 yards per carry, but what about Nick Griffin? The Bulldogs’ backup senior tailback proved the MSU backfield has impeccable depth by rushing eight times for 45 yards and a touchdown. If Griffin is able to spell Robinson at times throughout every game, it will keep both backs fresher and healthier by November’s push to the finish.

Defensively, a lot was made in the offseason about the dominance of defensive tackle Chris Jones, but very few experts or fans were uttering the name of defensive end Preston Smith. But while Jones was doing his usual thing – three tackles, a tackle for loss and a sack – Smith was shining just as bright, recording a pair of tackles, a batted pass, an interception and a blocked field goal against the Golden Eagles.

Smith batted a ball at the line and intercepted it himself, then batted a third quarter Southern Miss field goal that would be scooped and returned to the end zone by safety Jay Hughes.

Speaking of Hughes, he shined bright in the MSU secondary after most of the offseason attention was given to returning corners Jamerson Love and Taveze Calhoun, or to the loss of star safety Nickoe Whitley to the NFL. Hughes didn’t let the lack of attention get him down, scoring on Smith’s blocked field goal in addition to making an interception in the end zone late in the first half, when the score was still 21-0.

Mississippi State had its star power on display Saturday night, but it also had some unlikely heroes burst onto the scene. If the Bulldogs are as deep as they appeared against Southern Miss, and with 16 returning starters they just might be, the hype for the 2014 season is justified.