Mississippi State’s 8-4 season might not have had the same flashiness to it as last year’s 10-3 campaign, but it wasn’t without its highlights.
Here are the top four moments that defined the Bulldogs’ season — for better or for worse.
1. Dak Prescott’s wild, six-touchdown game against the Wildcats
Of all games, this was the one where Prescott broke his streak. Prescott had thrown 288 passes without an interception — the third-longest such streak in SEC history — but against Kentucky, the senior quarterback finally coughed one up. Everything else about that game? Unbelievable.
Prescott threw for 348 yards and rushed for 117. He tossed three touchdowns and ran for three. It was the second game in a row in which Prescott threw for more than 300 yards and also the second dominant win in a row. Mississippi State beat Kentucky 42-16 and was starting to show signs that last year’s No. 1 poll ranking might not have been a one-off.
2. Dak gets swept away by the Crimson Tide’s red-zone defense
This season, Mississippi State was ranked No. 16 in the country in red zone conversion. On 90 percent of the Bulldogs’ trips inside the 20 yard line, they come away with points. So when Mississippi State had a fourth-and-goal on Alabama’s one yard line early in the first quarter of a tied game, it seemed impossible that the team would hand the ball over without taking the lead against the No. 2 Crimson Tide.
Instead of trying for a chip-shot field goal, Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen decided the chance at an early touchdown was worth the risk. An admirable thought but, as it turns out, a fruitless one. Prescott was stuffed for a loss of one on a QB sneak against the No. 2 rush defense in the nation. The next quarter, Alabama’s Cyrus Jones returned a punt 69 yards for a score and Alabama started to run away for a 31-6 win.
3. Beniquez Brown’s hands lift the Bulldogs over Arkansas
Mississippi State’s matchup with Arkansas in Fayetteville was arguably the most entertaining SEC game of the season. The Bulldogs led 31-21 at halftime, then a miserable third quarter saw Arkansas take a 42-31 lead. But somehow, Mississippi State muscled its way to a 51-50 lead with two and a half minutes left to play.
Coming into the game, Mississippi State hadn’t won a single matchup this season in which its opponent scored more than 20 points. So when Arkansas’ Brandon Allen marched the Razorbacks to the Mississippi State 12 yard line to set up a 29-yard field goal with 46 seconds left, it made sense. Mississippi State had fought hard in a wonderful game — Prescott and Allen combined for 965 yards and 14 touchdowns — but would lose on a last-minute field goal.
But somebody forgot to ask Beniquez Brown if that was okay with him.
The junior linebacker snuck through Arkansas’ line and swatted the Razorbacks’ kick into the dirt. Miraculously, the Bulldogs won the game, but it was their only win in the final three games of the season.
4. Bulldogs put up a goose egg in the first quarter of the Egg Bowl
The entire week before the Egg Bowl, Dak Prescott mentioned how much winning the rivalry on senior night in Starkville meant to him. Perhaps it meant too much. Prescott had his last Dawg Walk that day, his last time running out to a screaming crowd at Davis Wade Stadium, then his worst quarter of the year.
On the first drive of the game, Prescott uncharacteristically fumbled on a rush. Ole Miss scored a touchdown on the following possession. Then Prescott came back out onto the field and left after the Rebels forced a three-and-out. Ole Miss scored again. So Prescott trotted onto the field, down 14-0 with just fewer than 10 minutes left in the first quarter, his team painfully in need of a spark… and threw a pick-six. The Bulldogs would suddenly become competitive in the final three quarters of the matchup, but thanks to Mississippi State’s sloppiest 15 minutes of play all season, Ole Miss would win the game 38-27.