Mississippi State will usher out one of the most successful senior classes in school history appearing in their fourth consecutive bowl game.
Although safety Nickoe Whitley and quarterback Tyler Russell have both been ruled out for the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, 11 other Bulldog seniors will suit up for their final game.
Those seniors are the remaining remnants of Dan Mullen’s initial recruiting class at MSU.
“Coming in here five years ago, every one of these guys are guys that I recruited,” Mullen said “They believed in what we’ve been trying to build here and to see that consistent success that they’ve had throughout their career is pretty special.”
Mullen announced at the Liberty Bowl press conference Thursday afternoon that sophomore quarterback Dak Prescott was healthy as bowl practice gets underway on Friday.
“We’ve got a lot of practice between now and (the Liberty Bowl) and with how this year has gone…,” Mullen said. “We’ve got to watch him walking to class taking final exams with all those curbs around campus.”
The Bulldogs advanced to the Liberty Bowl with a 6-6 record winning their final two regular season games in overtime. It will be State first appearance in the Liberty Bowl under Mullen and fourth overall.
“I don’t think in my five years at Mississippi State that there’s been a bowl that’s been more supportive of us,” Mullen said. “I know our players have really been looking forward to coming here and the opportunity to make that happen is pretty special.”
The last time the Bulldogs played in the Liberty Bowl in 2007, the maroon and white faithful helped set the bowl’s attendance record of 63,816 fans. Mississippi State has already exhausted its 16,000 ticket allotment and will be receiving more tickets from the Liberty Bowl soon.
“I’m asking our fans to make it a home game for us,” Mullen said. “We seem to sellout 55,000 at 30 home games in a row so we need to keep that streak alive and sell this game out and give ourselves a little home field advantage here.”
Cowbells will be permitted at the Liberty Bowl but only under the same rules set for during SEC games.
“They’re actually instruments,” Mullen said. “Will Ferrell had that proven right? You’ll hear a great song out there and the one thing you always know is, sometimes when you listen to music you’ll get a fever and the only prescription is more cowbell.”
Mullen has been on the road recruiting this week but has already started breaking down game film on Rice via his iPad. The Owls went 10-3 during the regular season winning the Conference USA Championship.
Rice has won 15 of its last 18 games overall and has a veteran roster with 23 seniors including 19 fifth-year players.
“One thing you do see is the quality of their players,” Mullen said. “They are a disciplined team that plays with unbelievable effort. They have a great senior class. They certainly have a lot of talented players that have an opportunity to play at the next level. It’ll be a great challenge for us.”
The winner of Conference USA gets an automatic bid to the Liberty Bowl and has been a top priority for the Owls all season.
“Our No. 1 goal was to get to the Liberty Bowl,” said Rice coach David Bailiff. “Our second goal was we wanted to lead the world in chest bumps and high fives. We’re going to have fun playing in this game.”
Bailiff had an opportunity to watch MSU play Ole Miss on Thanksgiving and was impressed with what he saw.
“I watched the Egg Bowl and it was an incredible football game,” Bailiff said. “To see Dak step onto the field and the enthusiasm that happened on that sideline.”