OPINION: For young Bulldogs, a sign of good things to come

STARKVILLE – About the time senior defensive tackle Kyle Love was hoisting the Egg Bowl trophy skyward, coach Dan Mullen was wrapping up freshman receiver Chad Bumphis in an emphatic hug.
After Mississippi State’s 41-27 win over No. 20 Ole Miss in Saturday’s Egg Bowl, Scott Field served as a stage for the Bulldogs. The 16 seniors gave their curtain call, and the stable of newcomers capped what was an impressive debut season.
The record books will have this as a 5-7 finish for MSU, including a 3-5 mark in SEC play. That’s one game better than last season on both counts, and it came against the toughest schedule in the country.
What’s yet to be written is what the crop of young Bulldogs may yet accomplish. If this season – and Saturday in particular – is any indication, many big things await them.
Let’s quickly review some of the fresh faces who played to rave reviews Saturday.
– Third-year sophomore quarterback Chris Relf, who played sparingly last season, rushed for 131 yards and a touchdown and passed for two more scores.
– One of those TD tosses went to Bumphis, a true freshman who finished this season as MSU’s top receiver, with 32 catches for 375 yards and four touchdowns.
– Sophomore Charles Mitchell, a key reserve last season, made two interceptions from his strong safety position. He has four on the season and also finished with 64 tackles, fourth on the team.
– Redshirt freshman cornerback Corey Broomfield recorded his sixth interception of the season, returning an errant Jevan Snead throw 64 yards for a game-sealing touchdown in the fourth quarter. It’s Broomfield’s second pick-six of the year, and he did it while playing with a separated left shoulder suffered in the first quarter.
There are more, but those were the main stars Saturday. And they’re all coming back next season, and the next, and for some, probably the next.
“The future’s looking real good for us,” junior linebacker K.J. Wright said.
This game should have an impact on the future beyond the careers of the aforementioned players. While Mullen insisted last week that the Egg Bowl doesn’t have a huge impact beyond the final result and bragging rights, I’m not so sure. A lot of recruits were there to see this first-hand.
Ole Miss was the state’s premier football program after last season, and it held that distinction headed into Saturday’s Egg Bowl. Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt made sure to point that out last week, saying, “This is one program in the state that’s getting very strong.”
Following the game, Mullen said that MSU “is certainly on the rise, I can tell you that much, maybe contrary to what other people are saying in this state. I know one program is certainly on the rise, and that’s right here in Starkville.”
Will recruits lean toward one school or the other based on one game?
“Now that we’ve won it, I hope it does,” defensive coordinator Carl Torbush joked.
Maybe not, but any recruits inside Davis Wade Stadium got to see exactly what Mullen has been pitching since he arrived last December.
“Young kids know they can come here, they’re going to play early in their career,” he said. “They can represent the state of Mississippi and these great fans. They’re going to play in front of sold-out stadiums and big-time atmospheres every single week here in Starkville.”
And if Saturday is any indication, those young guys will help the Bulldogs win.

Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or brad.locke@djournal.com.

Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal