Sunday September 21st, 2014

For what seems like an eternity, people have been saying that Mississippi State -- and sixth-year coach Dan Mullen -- needed to win a big game. The Bulldogs kept coming so close in the loaded SEC West, but they couldn’t reach up and take it.

Well, they finally broke through on Saturday with a 34-29 win over LSU in Death Valley. This wasn’t an instance of a team stealing one. Although the Tigers made a late charge, Mississippi State went to Baton Rouge and grabbed a win it deserved.

In a division filled with good teams, wins like this matter. It doesn’t prove that the Bulldogs have arrived (after all, they have a tough stretch ahead of them), but they might just have their ticket and are standing in line for departure. Here are three quick thoughts from Mississippi State’s victory:

1. What is Dak?

With few returning SEC quarterbacks, Dak Prescott was expected to elevate his game to another level. Other players might have folded under the bright lights, but Prescott hasn’t. He did it all against a stout LSU front seven. If Mississippi State needed a third-and-long conversion, Prescott bought time and moved the sticks. If the Tigers brought pressure, Prescott managed to evade it.

Prescott finished with 373 total yards (268 passing, 105 rushing) and three touchdowns. Plenty of guys are September Heisman Trophy candidates, but the Bulldogs star has the skill set to make things happen all year.

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2. Where are LSU’s playmakers?

The Tigers have talent. That much is undeniable. But can they consistently produce? Tailback Leonard Fournette rushed for 38 yards on seven carries. Receiver Malachi Dupre displayed flashes of potential, including on a leaping 30-yard touchdown grab in the fourth quarter, but he took a while to get going. Quarterback Anthony Jennings has run hot and cold all season.

LSU is known for its defense, but in games when it can’t carry the load, the Tigers have to find ways to manufacture points.

3. A brief pause to acknowledge Mississippi State’s running game

Coming into Saturday, LSU had allowed an average of 111 rushing yards per game. The Tigers are tough up front, and the Bulldogs faced a challenge, especially on the road. However, Prescott and Josh Robinson combined to pick up 302 yards on the ground and wear down LSU.

The Tigers made a late push, scoring two touchdowns in the final two minutes to cut the lead to five. Brandon Harris even attempted a Hail Mary at the buzzer with a chance to win the game. But Mississippi State survived and will enter a matchup with Texas A&M on Oct. 4 with a 4-0 record.

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