Mississippi State is going bowling for the fourth consecutive season for the first time in school history and had to win back-to-back overtime games to get there.
Dan Mullen has defeated his state rival in four of the five years he has been in Starkville, becoming just the second coach in the school’s history to do so.
QBDak Prescott had a gutsy performance to come off the bench in the fourth quarter with very little practice time over the last month and lead his team to victory and into the postseason.
The Bulldogs’ special teams generated just three points and gave up seven.
Ole Miss became the eighth team this season to score on State with 2:31 or less remaining before halftime. Six of those eight scores were touchdowns.
Keys to Victory
1. Relf Coast offense?
True freshman quarterback Damian Williams did his best Chris Relf impression in his first career start but the offense only generated 145 yards with him at the helm.
Williams did an admirable job, but the offense went to a completely different level once Prescott entered the game on the second drive of the fourth quarter.
2. Create turnovers
MSU created 14 turnovers in its last four games of the regular season, including four on Thursday night. The same Bo Wallace who had a field day tossing touchdowns to Donte Moncrief in the 2012 game was picked off three times in the first half by the Bulldogs and was stripped of the ball in overtime.
Senior safety Nickoe Whitley was responsible for the first and last of Wallace’s turnovers and has caused huge fumbles at the end of the last two games.
3. Solid special teams
Special teams have been an issue in every aspect all season for the Bulldogs. Thursday night was more of the same, as MSU had a punt blocked in its own end zone resulting in the Rebels’ lone touchdown.
Redshirt freshman walk-on Evan Sobiesk tied the game up with a 36-yard field goal with 2:21 remaining in the fourth quarter but pushed a 39-yarder that would have won the game as time expired in regulation.
CB Taveze Calhoun has been huge for the Bulldogs over the final three weeks but saved his best outing for the Egg Bowl. Calhoun picked off Alabama’s AJ McCarron twice, sealed the Arkansas overtime win with an interception and led State with 11 tackles against Ole Miss.
The sophomore from Morton made several impressive open-field tackles, had a pass deflection and locked down Moncrief most of the game.
Finishing the regular season 6-6 is not a banner year by any means. However, the fact that the Bulldogs were able to advance to a bowl game for a fourth straight season and get the extra practice time will go a long way for a team that is only losing 13 seniors.