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llowery

I have covered Mississippi State in some capacity since 2004 and joined the Daily Journal staff in 2013. I enjoy short walks on the beach, performing concerts in my car and watching professional wrestling.

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Stories Written by Logan Lowery

8TB6_MSU_primary_logo.jpgBy Logan Lowery

Daily Journal

Mississippi State made headlines by adding eight commitments last Friday.

The Bulldogs added another name to the 2015 class on Thursday as Collins safety Mark McLaurin became the 26th commitment.

The three-star prospect chose MSU over offers from Alcorn State, Arkansas State, Louisiana Tech, Louisiana-Lafayette, Memphis, Ole Miss and Southern Miss.

McLaurin is considered the No. 41 safety in the nation by 247Sports.com and the 16th best prospect in Mississippi.

The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder totaled nearly 3,000 yards as a junior quarterback last season in leading Collins to a 9-4 record and into the second round of the Class 3A Playoffs.

MSU’s 2015 class is now ranked 10th nationally by 247Sports.com.

8TB6_MSU_primary_logo.jpgBy Logan Lowery

Daily Journal

STARKVILLE – Mississippi State wanted a more challenging non-conference schedule in Rick Ray’s third season to reflect a finally full roster.

The Bulldogs released their 13-game non-conference slate on Wednesday. It features eight home outings and another at Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson on Dec. 20 against South Carolina Upstate.

MSU will welcome Western Carolina, Mississippi Valley State, Utah State, Clayton State, Arkansas State, Jacksonville, McNeese State and Florida State to Humphrey Coliseum.

The Bulldogs will travel to Tulane and Oregon State while also participating in the Corpus Christi Challenge against St. Louis and Bradley or TCU. The Mississippi Valley State and Clayton State games are also associated with the Corpus Christi Challenge.

“Our non-conference schedule is an indication of the direction of our program,” Ray said in a statement. “As our team matures and our talent level increases, our schedule reflects the belief in my team to accept bigger and better challenges. I also want to provide a great fan experience by having a team of the caliber of Florida State come in and play in The Hump. This schedule will not only prepare us for the SEC but also prepare us to have success in the SEC.”

State will play Delta State in an exhibition game in Starkville on Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. as part of homecoming weekend.

The Bulldogs will open the 2014-15 season on Nov. 14 against Western Carolina at 5:30 p.m.

Western Carolina, Clayton State and S.C.-Upstate will all be first-time opponents for Mississippi State.

During his first two seasons, Ray has posted a 17-12 non-conference record including an 11-4 mark last season. The Bulldogs are 12-2 at home in non-conference action under Ray.

logan.lowery@journalinc.com

–––––

NON-CONFERENCE SCHEDULE

Nov. 6 Delta State 7 p.m.

Nov. 14Western Carolina 5:30 p.m.

Nov. 17Mississippi Valley State 7 p.m.

Nov. 22Utah State 2 p.m.

Nov. 24Clayton State 7 p.m.

Nov. 28St. Louis (at Corpus Christi, Texas)

Nov. 29Bradley/TCU (at Corpus Christi, Texas)

Dec. 6at Tulane TBA

Dec. 13at Oregon State TBA

Dec. 17Arkansas State 7 p.m.

Dec. 20SC Upstate 3 p.m. (at Jackson)

Dec. 23Jacksonville 7 p.m.

Dec. 30McNeese State 7 p.m.

Jan. 2Florida State 7 p.m.

LOGAN LOWERY

LOGAN LOWERY

STARKVILLE

Many times you will hear coaches refer to an athlete having the “it factor.”

I’m not sure how to define “it” either, but having been around sports all my life I can recognize it when I see it.

And Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott has it.

People just seem to gravitate towards Prescott. The way he worked the room at SEC Media Days last week wasn’t necessarily surprising to see but was impressive nonetheless. Prescott remained calm and also humble as he was peppered with questions from the 1,200-plus media on-hand.

Prescott is just a likeable guy. And when you hear his story and found out the obstacles he overcame both on and off the field last season, it allows you appreciate him even more.

I cannot imagine what the pressure is like just to be a quarterback in the Southeastern Conference. Last year, Prescott was not only battling for a starting job with Tyler Russell but also doing so with his mother Peggy battling with terminal colon cancer 300 miles away in Louisiana.

Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott talks to reporters last week. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott talks to reporters last week. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Prescott quickly became a fan favorite as a redshirt sophomore early last season, throwing for 1,158 yards and five touchdowns and rushing for 490 yards and eight more scores in the first seven games.

But the day before his mother’s death, Prescott had a career-worst outing against South Carolina, tossing three interceptions.

Instead of succumbing and letting the grief overtake him, Prescott returned to the practice field just hours after his mother’s funeral. Being around football and his teammates seemed to help him cope and a few days later he led the Bulldogs into battle at Texas A&M.

Prescott rushed for 154 yards and threw two touchdowns against the Aggies, but late in the fourth quarter he suffered an elbow injury that would keep him out of the Alabama and Arkansas games and the first three quarters of the Egg Bowl.

With his team trailing rival Ole Miss 10-7 heading into the fourth quarter, Prescott begged coach Dan Mullen to let him play. The spark of Prescott just hitting the field in the fourth quarter not only resonated on the sideline but throughout Davis Wade Stadium that Thanksgiving night. Not only did his teammates believe in him, but so did the entire Bulldog fan base.

That is the “it” factor he brings.

Bowl heroics

The events that followed will live on in Egg Bowl lore for many years to come as Prescott led the Bulldogs to a game-tying field goal and on fourth-and-1 from the 3-yard line in overtime, scored the game-winning touchdown to give MSU bowl eligibility for a fourth straight season.

Prescott went on to be the Liberty Bowl MVP accounting for 361 yards of offense and five touchdowns in the game.

There has been plenty of buzz about Prescott this offseason and even some Heisman Trophy talk.

But no matter how the upcoming season or the next goes, Prescott has already left his mark on the program and is already winning the most important game of all, life.

Logan Lowery (logan.lowery@ journalinc.com) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at InsideMSUsports.com

LOGAN LOWERY

LOGAN LOWERY

STARKVILLE

Mississippi State’s sixth annual Big Dawg Camp was also its most successful.

The Bulldogs received eight football commitments on Friday, swelling the 2015 class to 25 and lifting it five spots up to No. 9 nationally according to 247Sports.com.

Having covered MSU recruiting for five years at Rivals.com before joining the Daily Journal staff, I’ve seen my share of crazy occurrences. But I have never witnessed anything quite as wild as receiving eight commitments in a span of around 10 hours – and that’s not including a baseball commitment the Diamond Dogs also received on Friday.

When the dust finally settled late Friday, State had added two four-stars, four high school three-star prospects, a junior college three-star prospect and a 2016 offensive guard.

Headlining the day was Bassfield safety Jamal Peters, who is considered the top senior prospect in the state. I witnessed Peters in action at last year’s camp and could already tell he was a star in the making.

Peters’ commitment was huge for the Bulldogs but they will still have to fend off other suitors all the way up until signing day in February.

Mississippi State also gained three running backs. Four-star Nick Gibson (Pinson, Ala.) was obviously a huge get for the Bulldogs along with Alec Murphy (Nixa, Mo.). Those two are the more traditional backs to go along with Kentavious Thomas (Milledgeville, Ga.), who pledged back in February.

Three-star Keith Mixon (Irondale, Ala.) was the third back to commit Friday night but is more of an all-purpose guy.

Bassfield's Jamal Peters highlighted a list of eight to commit to Mississippi State on Friday. (www.mississippigridiron.com)

Bassfield’s Jamal Peters highlighted a list of eight to commit to Mississippi State on Friday. (www.mississippigridiron.com)

At 5-foot-10, 165-pounds, Mixon relies more on his speed and has good hands out of the backfield. At Big Dawg Camp, he posted a forty yard dash time of 4.37.

Bay Springs dual-threat quartback Jonnas Spivey is another guy the Bulldogs have had their eye on since last summer. I had a chance to speak with him and see him in action and I really like his athleticism. With two other quarterbacks committed in this class (Chason Virgil and Nick Tiano) I doubt Spivey’s future in college will be behind center, but there are a number of positions where he fits.

Hoover, Ala., three-star wide receiver Justin Johnson was the guy that got the ball rolling early in the day Friday letting our John Davis break the story while at the National Select 7-on-7 Tournament. Johnson gives MSU a big target at 6-foot-4, 205-pounds.

Copiah-Lincoln Community College defensive end Jonathan Calvin attended Big Dawg Camp as a spectator and also joined in on the wave of commitments. The Bulldogs fended off Auburn for the pledge of the former Murrah standout.

Dee Nalls, a 6-foot-3, 290-pound offensive guard from Fayette, Ala., also joined the fold late Friday, becoming the Bulldogs’ second 2016 commitment.

With the spots filling up fast, State will have to be selective now on who they take with its few remaining scholarships in this class.

One spot could go to Brookhaven’s Leo Lewis. The nation’s top-ranked linebacker de-committed from Alabama while attending Big Dawg Camp and is expected to give MSU strong consideration.

It has been since 2003 since the Bulldogs finished in the top 10 in recruiting but if this class sticks and a few more pieces fall into place, Dan Mullen will be smiling in February.

Logan Lowery (logan.lowery@ journalinc.com) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at InsideMSUsports.com

8TB6_MSU_primary_logo.jpgBy Logan Lowery

Daily Journal

STARKVILLE – Mississippi State’s recruiting streak continued Friday night in its annual invitation-only Big Dawg Camp.

Following Hoover, Ala., receiver Justin Johnson’s commitment earlier in the day, the Bulldogs added five more highly-touted additions to its 2015 class.

Running backs Nick Gibson and Alec Murphy, defensive end Johnathan Calvin, safety Jamal Peters and athlete Jonnas Spivey brought MSU’s class to 24 commitments.

Bassfield’s Peters is the top-rated prospect in Mississippi and the No. 3 safety nationally according to the 247Sports.com composite rankings.

The 6-foot-3, 200-pound safety picked MSU over a batch of offers, including Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss, Southern Miss, Tennessee and Texas A&M.

Peters tallied 72 tackles, nine for loss, five sacks and two fumble recoveries last season.

Gibson is a 5-foot-11, 191-pounder from Pinson, Ala., who chose the Bulldogs over offers including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida State, N.C. State and Tennessee.

Last season, the four-star prospect rushed 293 times for 2,205 yards and 27 touchdowns at Pinson Valley while hauling in 25 passes for 266 yards and three more scores.

Murphy chose Mississippi State over offers from Iowa, Illinois, Iowa State, Kansas State and Purdue.

The 6-foot-1, 222-pounder carried 209 times for 1,793 yards and 22 scores as a junior.

Spivey, a 6-0, 180-pound dual-threat quarterback from Bay Springs, chose MSU over offers from Arkansas State, Southern Miss and Tennessee.

As a junior, the three-star recruit completed 160 of 274 passes for 2,240 yards, 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions while adding 753 yards and seven TDs on 97 rushing attempts.

Calvin joins the class along with Copiah-Lincoln CC teammate Donald Gray.

The 6-foot-4, 255-pound three-star prospect had more than a dozen offers, including Auburn, Louisville Miami, Tennessee, Texas A&M and West Virginia.

Calvin, a former Murrah High School standout, made 29 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and an interception as a freshman at Co-Lin.

With the latest run of commitments, the Bulldogs’ 2015 class ranks ninth in the country according to 247Sports.com.

logan.lowery@journalinc.com

LSU tackle La'el Collins cited multiple injuries in the Tigers' loss to Ole Miss. LSU hosts the Rebels on Oct. 25 (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

LSU tackle La’el Collins cited multiple injuries in the Tigers’ loss to Ole Miss. LSU hosts the Rebels on Oct. 25 (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

LSU coach Les Miles checks his watch as he speaks to the media on Wednesday. The Tigers' coach feels the team is on the cusp of once again competing for championships. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

LSU coach Les Miles checks his watch as he speaks to the media on Wednesday. The Tigers’ coach feels the team is on the cusp of once again competing for championships. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

By Logan Lowery

Daily Journal

HOOVER, Ala., – Les Miles has done a lot during his nine seasons as LSU head coach including three Western Division crowns, two SEC titles and a national championship in 2007.

However 2013 was not up to the standards of Miles or the Tigers faithful, finishing 10-3 and third in the SEC West standings.

LSU returns 16 starters (six offense, seven defense, three specialists) this fall given Miles confidence that his team is in for another strong season.

“We’re a good team that’s really on the cusp of an opportunity to win championships,” Miles said. “If you look at the three games that we lost, turnovers played a very significant role. That’s an annual battle.”

One of LSU’s losses last season came against Ole Miss in Oxford. Zach Mettenberger threw three interceptions which later allowed the Rebels to kick a 41-yard field goal for a 27-24 victory as time expired.

“At the start, I thought we were going to have a good game,” said LSU tackle La’el Collins. “I got injured, went back into the game and then I got injured again. The way we finished as an offense made me really think of things that we could have done differently to be successful in that game. That’s something I keep in the back of my head when it’s time to play.”

Ole Miss will travel to Baton Rouge on Oct. 25.

Mississippi State battled the Tigers for three quarters and entered the final quarter trailing by five points. But LSU poured on four touchdowns in the final 15 minutes to turn a tight contest into a 59-26 blowout.

The Bulldogs will have a chance to redeem themselves at LSU on Sept. 20 in the SEC opener for both.

“We’re going to go out there with a chip on our shoulder,” said MSU linebacker Benardrick McKinney.

“We’re going to go out there and take it play-by-play. We’re going to play hard all four quarters and not try to make mistakes.”

Irrelevant rankings

The preseason SEC media rankings were to be released this morning.

Miles stated during his turn at the podium Wednesday at SEC Media Days that no matter where the Tigers were picked, he liked their chances to win the division.

“Our position won’t bother us,” Miles said.

“We don’t care. We just want to work, improve and get better. We’ll play one game at a time and point at the next opponent. We’ll continue to do the things we’ve done in the past and earn our way. I like us. I like us in every game.”

LSU kicks off the season Aug. 30 against Wisconsin in Houston in the Advocare Texas Kickoff at NRG Stadium.

logan.lowery@journalinc.com

8TB6_MSU_primary_logo.jpgBy Logan Lowery

Daily Journal

While many Mississippi State fans will be focused on Egg Bowl week in late November, the Bulldogs men’s basketball team will have their eyes set on the Lone Star State.

MSU has accepted an invitation to participate in the Corpus Christi Coastal Classic on Nov. 28-29. The Bulldogs will take on Saint Louis in the opening game and either TCU or Bradley the following day.

Saint Louis went 27-7 last season, won the Atlantic 10 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament before a loss to Louisville ended its season.

The Bulldogs and Billikens have met just once on the hardwood, with St. Louis claiming a 63-46 home victory on Dec. 9, 1950.

State is 1-0 against Bradley and 1-1 versus TCU. The remainder of the Bulldogs’ non-conference schedule will be released next week.

Dan Mullen looks at Auburn's run last season as a model for Mississippi State to follow and is optimistic about his team's chances. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Dan Mullen looks at Auburn’s run last season as a model for Mississippi State to follow and is optimistic about his team’s chances. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

By Logan Lowery

Daily Journal

HOOVER, Ala. – Mississippi State will not be favored to win the SEC Western Division this season.

But, as Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen quickly pointed out Tuesday at SEC Media Days, neither was Auburn a year ago.

The Tigers were picked fifth in the division but won the SEC Championship and came within 13 seconds of winning a national championship in 2013.

Mullen hopes MSU is on the cusp of a similar rise through the ranks this fall.

“Our expectations are to find a way to get to Atlanta,” Mullen said. “That’s what we’re planning on and can control, to compete for an SEC Championship this year. For us to do that we’re going to have to have a pretty special year but I think we have some special guys that can make that happen.”

There is some basis for Mullen’s optimism.

The Bulldogs return 30 players (15 offense, 15 defense) who started at various times last season due to numerous injuries.

“I’ve never been on a team that had more injuries than we had last year,” Mullen said. “But we had guys who overcame that adversity and found a way to win games. The great thing about it is it gave all those guys experience coming into this season.”

State finished 7-6 in 2013, winning its final two contests in overtime before rolling Rice 44-7 in the Liberty Bowl.

Late losses

Mullen felt fourth-quarter losses to Auburn (24-20), Alabama (20-7) and Texas A&M (51-41) prepared his team to persevere and attain overtime wins at Arkansas and in the Egg Bowl against Ole Miss to close out the regular season.

“We can score points and play defense against teams in this league,” Mullen said. “We played tight games against some of the best teams in the country. We were pretty good and needed to finish the season the right way. We started to find a way to win those games at the end of the year.”

However, for the Bulldogs to rise above being a middle-tier team in the division, Mullen understands those close losses have to transform into the win column. He hopes the past five seasons in Starkville have laid the groundwork for the 2014 squad to construct a championship season.

“We’ve built a foundation for our program by going to four straight bowl games and winning four out of five Egg Bowls within the state,” Mullen said. “We’ve built a solid foundation for our future and we’re trying to build a championship program. I don’t think you can build that championship program without that foundation existing.”

MSU opens its season at home Aug. 30 against Southern Miss.

logan.lowery@journalinc.com

Linebacker Benardrick McKinney's only offer came from Mississippi State. The former Rosa Fort quarterback has repaid coach Dan Mullen for his confidence with 173 tackles, including 71 last season. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Linebacker Benardrick McKinney’s only offer came from Mississippi State. The former Rosa Fort quarterback has repaid coach Dan Mullen for his confidence with 173 tackles, including 71 last season. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

By Logan Lowery

Daily Journal

HOOVER, Ala. – Benardrick McKinney is another example of Dan Mullen finding a diamond in the rough in a rural Mississippi town.

Mississippi State was the only school to offer the former Rosa Fort High School quarterback and has developed McKinney into one of the top linebacker talents in the country.

“He plays with an unbelievable chip on his shoulder,” Mullen said. “I think he was a two-star recruit out of high school and wasn’t really recruited at all. We saw that this guy had a tremendous ability and growth potential. He plays with that chip of wanting to prove everybody wrong.”

McKinney has packed on 37-pounds of muscle onto his 6-foot-5 frame during his four years in Starkville.

Now a 245 pounder, he has been selected to watch lists for the Butkus, Lombardi and Bednarik awards as well as the Nagurski Trophy this preseason. He is also considered the top underclassman inside linebacker by ESPN NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper Jr.

“It’s a great honor, not really coming from much in Tunica,” McKinney said. “My mom always told me to be humble, so I just take it day by day and just try to be a great player.”

During the past two seasons, McKinney has tallied 173 tackles, including a team-leading 71 last season. He also topped the Bulldogs with seven tackles for loss while adding 3.5 sacks and recovered two fumbles.

“He is the vocal, emotional leader of the defense with how he gets out in front and encourages guys,” Mullen said. “He plays the game with a passion. He will do whatever it takes for the team to win.”

High expectations

MSU quarterback Dak Prescott has drawn high praise and even a few Heisman Trophy candidate comparisons from fans and college football analysts alike heading into his junior campaign.

But no one is setting higher goals than Prescott himself.

“I have high expectations for myself,” Prescott said. “I’m going to continue to do what I do, work hard, get better and try to be the best quarterback that I can.”

Prescott started seven games in 2013 and led the Bulldogs with 2,822 yards of offense and 25 touchdowns while splitting time with Tyler Russell behind center.

“He has an unbelievable work ethic,” Mullen said. “That hasn’t slowed down. He had a good season last year and had success. He’s a guy that looks and is critical on himself of what he does well, what he does poorly and he’s constantly working to improve upon his skill set.”

Long-awaited return

Senior safety Jay Hughes is anxious for the Bulldogs’ season opener with Southern Miss on Aug. 30 for several reasons.

Safety Jay Hughes is ready for the opener against Southern Miss after missing virtually all of last season with a ruptured Achilles'. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Safety Jay Hughes is ready for the opener against Southern Miss after missing virtually all of last season with a ruptured Achilles’. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Not only did Hughes graduate from Oak Grove High School in Hattiesburg but his father and State safeties coach, Tony, coached the Golden Eagles in 2008.

However, Hughes is simply excited to be back on the field after suffering a season-ending ruptured Achilles in the opener against Oklahoma State last year.

“I can’t wait, it’s been a minute,” Jay Hughes said. “Week one, game one, play six, I remember it. I have been hungry ever since. I’ve been working hard. I’ve been consistent with my rehab and staying on top of it. It just feels good to be back with my teammates.”

logan.lowery@journalinc.com

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, whose team won the SEC last season, was the first coach to speak on Monday. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, whose team won the SEC last season, was the first coach to speak on Monday. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

By Logan Lowery

Daily Journal

HOOVER, Ala. – Last season, Auburn watched its national championship aspirations evaporate as Florida State scored with 13 seconds remaining to claim the title in a 34-31 victory.

It was usually the Tigers rallying for a late win in 2013. Auburn went 12-2 with six wins coming by eight points or less. Four times the Tigers scored the winning touchdown in the final 1:19 of play.

“Last year we weren’t on anybody’s radar,” said Auburn coach Gus Malzahn. “We snuck up on a lot of people. This year we know we’ll be circled. We’ve talked about that with our players but at the same time I feel like that’s good pressure. We’ve got our program back to where it should be.”

The first of those four late comebacks came in week three against Mississippi State. The Bulldogs led 20-14 until Auburn orchestrated a 12-play, 88-yard drive in the final 1:56 of the game.

Quarterback Nick Marshall completed 6 of 8 passes on the game-winning drive against the Bulldogs secondary. Marshall’s final completion was an 11-yard touchdown to All-SEC tight end C.J. Uzomah in the right corner of the end zone with 10-seconds remaining to escape with a 24-20 win.

Three weeks later the Tigers also edged Ole Miss 30-22 at home in another highly contested battle. The Rebels scored 16 second half points but were unable to overcome a slow start offensively.

Auburn makes two trips to the Magnolia State this year, facing Mississippi State on Oct. 11 and Ole Miss on Nov. 1.

Marshall absent

Marshall was scheduled to appear at Monday’s SEC Media Day along with center Reese Dismukes and defensive tackle Gabe Wright.

However, Marshall was cited for marijuana possession during a July 11 traffic stop in Reynolds, Ga., that caused the university to cancel his appearance.

“It is a privilege and a reward to be able to represent Auburn here at SEC Media Day,” Malzahn said. “Last Friday, Nick lost that privilege. We have high expectations for our players and specifically our quarterback. He’s the face of our program. Up until last Friday, Nick has been a model student, teammate and citizen. Nick made a mistake and he’s going to have to deal with the consequences.”

Malzahn refused to comment on what the extent of Marshall’s punishment would be.

The rising senior was dismissed from Georgia along with two other teammates as a freshman in 2012 for stealing from another player.

Marshall started 13 games during his first season for the Tigers totaling 3,079 yards of offense and 26 touchdowns.

Sophomore Jeremy Johnson served as Marshall’s backup last season throwing for 422 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions in six games.

logan.lowery@journalinc.com