Before the Kentucky game, I asked: Could the Bulldogs handle being the prey, instead of being the hunter?
The answer so far: yes.
The Bulldogs fended off Kentucky in their first game as the No.1 team in the nation. This past Saturday, they held off an upset-minded Arkansas squad. It wasn’t easy, either.
Arkansas brought their “A” game. They hit the Bulldogs in the mouth and dared them to beat them in a defensive struggle. They even jumped ahead 10-0. Faced with adversity for the first time this season, the Bulldogs rose to the challenge. Slowly but surely, they chipped away at the Razorback lead and pulled ahead…holding on to a seven point lead throughout the fourth quarter with Will Redmond sealing the game with an interception on the Razorback’s final drive.
The win showed the resiliency that this Bulldog squad possesses now. Two years ago, they lose that game.
“Looking back, Saturday was a great win for us. We have had to win games a lot of different ways, and we knew we were going to have to coming into this season. Before the game we actually talked to our team about that. We have won some high scoring games, and now we have won a low scoring game. We have won by holding on to leads, and now we have won by coming from behind. We have won running the ball well, and we have won games where we had to throw the ball well. We have won with goal line stands, and we have had to make offensive plays to win games. I am proud of our guys, and I think they understand all the ways they are going to have to win, “Dan Mullen on the Bulldogs overcoming adversity this past Saturday.
Mullen’s correct. The Bulldogs have won in every imaginable way. The LSU game was won with good ole fashion dominant, physical football. The Texas A&M game was won with great offensive football. The Auburn game was won by capitalizing on turnovers. The Kentucky game was won by a star performance from Josh Robinson. And the Arkansas game was won by stout defensive play.
The Bulldogs “Psycho D” was darn impressive, too. The goaline stands from the Bulldogs Saturday are the ones that define championship teams. There’s nothing more demoralizing than having the ball inside the five and the opposing team shuts you down for four straight plays.
That’s what the Bulldogs did to the Razorbacks…demoralized them. They could smell the upset. But the Bulldogs showed why they’re the best team in the country.
The victory was a tough one. But it’s on to the next one, which just so happens to be Mid-Major opponent Tennessee-Martin.
It’s a game with its own storyline–as the Skyhawks are quarterbacked by former Bulldog Dylan Favre.
“He is a play maker. I know that. We always knew that when he was here. If you put him out there exciting things are going to happen. Some good and some bad. I do not know if it gives us much of an advantage. He is going to be used to this environment. He has played in this stadium and has been in that environment before,” said Mullen.
He’ll surely try to put on a show. But the game is a proverbial “Bye Week.”
This weekend could serve as an opportunity for the Bulldogs to get ailing players–Dak Prescott and Jameon Lewis rest.
The matchup will also give inexperienced players: Ashton Shumpert, Jamoral Graham, Devon Desper, Quadry Antoine and J.T. Gray a chance for some game reps.
The additional reps could prove vital as the Bulldogs prepare for their road game against Alabama, which could be a One vs. Two showdown.
College Gameday, ESPN’s premiere college football show, will probably be in Tuscaloosa for the cross-state rivalry game that could be one the most important and hyped in the history of the series. It very well could determine the SEC West and alter the national championship race.
Bama Wins: The SEC chances of two bids in the College Football Playoff vastly increase. For two reasons: if Alabama runs the table, they represent the SEC West and the Bulldogs likely are left with one loss and holding one of the slots in the playoffs. If Auburn runs the table–beating Alabama–they’re only loss is to the number one ranked team and they’ll likely secure a playoff bid, as well.
MSU Wins: Alabama is eliminated from playoff contention. MSU and Auburn are then the only SEC teams with a chance to make it into the playoffs.
The pressure is about to be put on the “Dawgs.” They beat inferior opponents who brought their “A” games the past two weeks. Let’s see what happens against Alabama.
I doubt Josh Robinson is worried, though. “Throughout the season we are going to have to face adversity, and that just shows you what kind of team we are. If we just keep playing Mississippi State ball, we’ll be fine.”
The Bulldogs will be fine. They’re resilient.
J.Short’s Hot Takes
- Dak Prescott’s NFL prospects will become just as big a story as his Heisman hopes as the season presses along. On Saturday, he showed why he has a bright future in the NFL but he also showed why it shouldn’t be next year.
Prescott was proficient from the pocket—lighting up Arkansas for 331 through the air (Career High). In the process, he threw two interceptions. One interception was a result of Prescott getting hit as he threw the ball. But as he matures, he will learn to sidestep that defender, instead of trying to be tough by standing tall in the pocket. The second interception was a result of Prescott locking onto a receiver with three defenders around. It’s a habit he has that must be broken. The good part is that his problems are correctable. Another year in school would help Prescott develop into a top-10 or top-15 draft choice. Hopefully, he chooses that option.
- The hype is on Dak. But J.Rob deserves some praise as well. He didn’t run the ball well versus Arkansas. But he did have 110 receiving yards. Robinson will be on the NFL radar by the end of the season if he isn’t already.
- The Bulldogs offensive line deserves some kudos for their performance Saturday. They didn’t allow a sack to a talented and physical defensive line.
- The real Chris Jones showed up…to the tune of four tackles, one tackle for loss and two quarterback hurries. It’s about time.
- Matt Wells deserves some praise for his performance against Arkansas. Nine tackles, two pass break ups and two quarterback hurries. His chase down tackle of Alex Collins might have saved the game for the Bulldogs–as he would have scored.
- Will Redmond impresses me more and more every game. He may not be the starter at cornerback on the official depth chart, but he’s clearly the best cornerback on the roster.
- Evan Sobiesk’s connecting on a kick longer than 30 yards was huge as Coach Mullen stated. If he can begin to hit those kicks on the regular, the Bulldogs are in a much better position in close games.
- I was excited after watching the way Coach Collins rotated the linebackers on Saturday. He mixed the 1A and 1B units for the first time all season. It was move that many were waiting to see. Benardrick McKinney, Beniquez Brown and Christian Holmes on the field is particularly nice to see. They’re the smartest linebackers on the roster and the best run stoppers. With Alabama coming up, this trio might see the field a little more together.
- The Mississippi State offense is reaching heights that it never has this season. Dak Prescott and Josh Robinson are a big reason. Coach Mullen pushing the tempo at the right time is a big reason, as well. The first touchdown drive was a perfect example. MSU needed a boost after falling behind 10-0. J.Rob and Dak had a couple of nice runs and Mullen decided to go no-huddle push the tempo. What was the result? A score.
It shows Mullen’s growth as a coach. Conservative Mullen doesn’t push the tempo that way in 2009.
J.Short’s Final Take
The most encouraging takeaway from Saturday’s game was Mississippi State’s improving pass defense. The defensive backfield has been much-maligned but they showed up against Arkansas. If it wasn’t for a last minute drive from Arkansas, they would have held them to under 200 yards through the air. I don’t care if Arkansas’ passing game isn’t the most prolific…It’s a step in the right direction.
Coupled with some solid kicking from Sobiesk, the Bulldogs improving pass defense bodes well for the Bulldogs as they head into the stretch run.
Jeremiah Short, Peach State College Sports Contributor
Catch me on the “SportsKrib” on Wednesday’s 8-9 Central and Thursday’s 8-10 Central. Follow me on social media @DaRealJShort or check out my facebook page JShortJournalist or my Google Plus page J.Short- Journalist.