In his third season as head coach, Cohen just brought Mississippi State within a few outs of a berth in the College World Series, which starts this weekend in Omaha, Neb. That the Bulldogs got as close as they did is a testament to the work Cohen and his staff and players have put in since the Ron Polk era ended.
"It's a huge credit to our kids. It's a big jump for our program, but I can't stand saying that," Cohen said after Sunday's season-ending 8-6 loss to Florida in the Gainesville Super Regional. "Because I want to be in Omaha."
He accepts nothing less, no matter the expectations of others. The SEC's coaches picked MSU to finish last in the SEC Western Division this season, and who could blame them? That's where State had finished the three previous years.
MSU wound up finishing tied for second with a 14-16 league mark and swiped wins from Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Florida in the regular season. It went two-and-out in the SEC Tournament - which surprised few - and then won the NCAA Regional in Atlanta.
That surprised more than a few.
In interviews and press conferences, State players often brought up the perceived preseason slight from SEC coaches when speaking of this season.
"It was unbelievable, especially when we were picked to finish last in the SEC this year," senior Nick Vickerson said Sunday. "To come in and do what we did was really special."
Said Cohen, "The reasons the guys bring that up is because they've got a little bit of a chip on their shoulder about it. That's why we are where we are. That's why we made this jump this year."
An actual Chip
Speaking of chips, an ever-present member of this year's team was what appears from a distance to be a walking stick. It is a stick, but carved into the top is a miniature Bulldog head.
They call him Chip.
He was made by student manager Ronald Sims, and Chip even has a Twitter account (@ChipBarks), from which he often sends behind-the-scenes and on-field photos.
Chip was like MSU's version of the Rally Monkey, I guess, only more original. He would look on from the dugout steps whenever the Bulldogs needed a rally. He was there amongst the players Saturday when Vickerson launched his two-run walkoff homer to force Game 3.
What did Chip represent to the Bulldogs?
"Good luck and to never stop playing your hardest. Play with a chip on your shoulder," senior Jarrod Parks said.
I expect Chip will stick around, because MSU will need to keep that chip on its shoulder. The Bulldogs are losing seven starters from this squad, the only returnees being outfielders C.T. Bradford and Brent Brownlee. There's plenty of young talent that got a good amount of experience this season, and the entire pitching staff will return intact unless junior Devin Jones goes pro.
I'm sure quite a few observers will consider this postseason run flukish, but I will remind you again that Cohen turned around Kentucky - Kentucky! - and is clearly building up the talent base in Starkville.
Next season will begin with an expectation, among the Bulldogs, that Omaha is very much within reach. This year's close call should only add a little more fuel.
It should make the chip a little bigger.
Brad Locke (email@example.com) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal and blogs daily at NEMS360.com.