Last season, Dak Prescott and company took Mississippi State to previously unheard of heights. The Bulldogs received their first No. 1 poll ranking in team history and finished a remarkable 10-3 (6-2 SEC).
This year, other than a few notable departures on the offensive line and defense, that groundbreaking team was back — but it was without the luxury of mediocre expectations.
For the most part, the Bulldogs lived up to the high bar. They scored 33 points per game, became bowl-eligible for the sixth straight year and quarterback Dak Prescott? Well, Dak was Dak.
But Mississippi State couldn’t fully live up to the standards it had set in the prior year. Was 2015 a good season? Absolutely. Was it everything it could have been? No.
Here are the team awards for the Bulldogs following an 8-4 campaign:
Team MVP: Dak Prescott
Who else but the back-to-back C Spire Conerly trophy winner (the best player in Mississippi) to fill the role as the Bulldogs’ most valuable player? Prescott passed for 3,413 yards and 25 touchdowns while running for a team-high 541 yards and 10 scores in his final season in Starkville.
Defensive MVP: Beniquez Brown
The junior linebacker was the leading returning tackler on the team coming into the year. He followed up a stellar sophomore season with 90 tackles (nine for a loss), two sacks, an interception, and two blocked kicks (one of which we’ll get to later).
Best Freshman: Malik Dear
Dear was ranked as one of the top five players in the state as a senior in high school. As a freshman in college, he was certainly one of the top five players on the Bulldogs offense. Dear scored three touchdowns and was fifth in all-purpose yards with 417 while playing just 10 games on the year.
Biggest Surprise: Mississippi State was 4-3 at home this season
Last year, the Bulldogs went undefeated in seven games in Starkville. Davis Wade stadium seemed to be an impenetrable fortress for MSU, but this year’s team proved that wasn’t true, dropping big games to LSU, Alabama and Ole Miss.
Best Play: The Block
With 46 seconds left against Arkansas, Mississippi State led 51-50. The Razorbacks were lining up for a 29-yard field goal attempt that would have given them the lead and, most likely, the win. But thanks to a last-minute question, Brown shot a gap in Arkansas’ protection and got his mitts on the ball, sealing Mississippi State’s most thrilling victory of the year.
Overall Grade: B
Most teams wouldn’t dare complain about an 8-4 record, but there was a lingering feeling this season that the Bulldogs could have done more. Mississippi State had a few impressive wins and only one terrible loss, but the Bulldogs didn’t measure up in the biggest matchups of the year and never came close to last season’s No. 1 ranking.