There have been very few moments this season where Mississippi State (6-2, 2-2 SEC) looked like the team that was ranked No. 1 at one point last season, but that changed in Saturday’s 42-16 win over Kentucky (4-3, 2-3). Here are the Bulldogs’ grades following a great performance.
Not much went wrong for Mississippi State’s offense, which gained 586 total yards on Saturday. Quarterback Dak Prescott showed why many consider him the best signal-caller in the SEC, completing 25 of his 35 pass attempts for 348 yards and three touchdowns while adding another 117 yards and three scores on 13 carries. The six total touchdowns are the most that Prescott has accounted for in a single game during his four seasons at Mississippi State. Wide receivers Brandon Holloway and De’Runnya Wilson also deserve their share of credit for the offense’s success, catching 5 passes for 98 yards and a touchdown and 4 passes for 91 yards and a score, respectively.
Winning the turnover battle is always an important factor in a team’s success, and Mississippi State managed to do just that in Saturday’s win. The Bulldogs intercepted Kentucky starting quarterback Patrick Towles twice and backup quarterback Drew Barker once. Those three interceptions punctuated what was a poor night for Kentucky offensively. Despite gaining 423 yards, the Wildcats never really threatened to make the game competitive. It was a good performance by the secondary, as the unit held Kentucky’s passing attack to a paltry 4.9 yards per attempt.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C
The special teams aspect of Saturday’s win was easily the least impressive for Mississippi State. Kicker Westin Graves missed a 26-yard field goal, his only attempt of the night, but did convert all six of his extra-point attempts. There was very little production from the return game, and punter Logan Cooke averaged only 37 yards per punt. Fortunately, Mississippi State didn’t need to rely on its special teams on Saturday.
A player like Prescott can be a coach’s best friend. He did everything he possibly could for Mississippi State in the win, and made life much easier for coach Dan Mullen and the rest of the Bulldogs’ staff. The coaches get credit here for going for it, and converting, on fourth down during the team’s second drive of the game, which resulted in a touchdown to tie the game at 7-7. Similarly, they lose points for attempting another fourth down and failing in the second quarter. It was a fourth-and-one at Kentucky’s 19-yard line, so it wasn’t a dangerous spot for the attempt, but a field goal would have given them a touchdown lead and had the game not turned out like it did, those points could have been valuable.
Saturday was a great game for Mississippi State, but there is room for improvement on defense and special teams. Fortunately, the Bulldogs enter their bye week with momentum and a good win to build off of. This team has flown under the radar for most of the season in the SEC West, but with its final three games coming against Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss, Mississippi State has the chance to make a statement.